Monday, 21 December 2020

An uncertain future



We're all facing an uncertain end to the year. If this was a film, you couldn't really think of anything else to go wrong. Well, you could but let's not tempt fate.

Yes, the news is terrifying, but as one health expert pointed out, keep washing your hands, keeping your distance and wearing a mask. That really does help. And what we all need to do is plan for how to get through these next few months.

Living alone is no fun during lockdown (which we all know may be on the cards in January) but I have Lainy, I have my support bubble and I have other friends I walk with. My social life has largely consisted of dog walks for most of this year. I am 20,000 words into my next novel so I really hope I can still write, as that helps keep me sane. And I think it's a question of trying to keep each other going.

I've also got some good looking books to read over the next few weeks, and although my visit to my Mum has been postponed, again, I hope to be able to see her soon. She has her second Covid jab in early January.

So I end this last post this year by wishing everyone to keep safe and well. And plan for how we're all going to keep going for the next few months. What are you going to do?

Thinking of you all, with love, hugs and best wishes and a healthier 2021, Flowerpot and Lainy.

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Comfort Zones



I am a great believer in heading out of my comfort zone as well as staying firmly in it, if you know what I mean. I can be quite easily persuaded out of it as long as it includes Lainy; less easily so if it doesn't.

Some dear friends of mine have taken up swimming in the sea - in wetsuits I hasten to add - but that't not for me, for several reasons - 1) Lainy is still taking time to train, and i have to have an hour in the afternoon to do this, preferably before it gets dark. They swim from 2-4pm which wipes out all the afternoon. 2) I have Reynaud's and the thought of immersing myself in cold water makes me shudder. 3) Particularly as you have to warm up again very slowly. I know I'd have even worse chilblains than I do at the moment. And I hate having chilblains. 4) I'm still working so two hours out of my day is a lot, particularly when that is Lainy Time. So while I really admire their fortitude, that's not for me. I might have a go in the summer when its' warmer and I can tempt Lainy in the sea too.... But to get back to small examples of getting out of my comfort zone: this morning, the Tooth Fairy's car had to have an MOT at 8.30am which is well before his getting up time. I got up at 7am which is also before my usual rising time, but I was rewarded by the most amazing sunrise. It just got better and better as the minutes went by.

Anyway we met up at the garage and headed off to take Lainy for a walk. Driving through town, I was reminded that I'd eaten my tea early the night before (5pm) and that was my last meal. I was feeling tired which always means I need food. Lo and behold a takeaway bakery was open so when I said, 'Ooh shall I get some croissants?' TF jumped out and ordered. The next thing I knew we had two bacon rolls with brown sauce, two coffees and a croissant for me for later.

The bacon was just how I like it - lean and crispy, the rolls were small and tasty with sesame seeds on top, and the spiciness of the brown sauce was just perfect. What a meal, washed down with a cappuccino. Perfect fodder!

We then headed down to Half Moon Beach, scrambling over rocks in order to beat the tide, and had a wonderful time with Lainy on the beach.

The garage then rang saying could we pick the car up as they're really busy, so we had to head back, but got home in time to do a good morning's work. WE both really enjoyed the time out, an unexpected breakfast, and more time training Lainy on the beach and the Hornworks.

It's very easy to make excuses not to do things - and I'm as bad as the rest of us - but sometimes when the occasion crops it, it makes all the difference.....

Thursday, 3 December 2020

More reading



Last week I finished The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett. I can't remember how I heard about it, whether it was from a review I read or the TV programme Between the Covers, hosted by Sara Cox, that's been on recently. Anyway, I ordered it from the library and it was one of those slow burn books, but in a good way. What a writer!

I so enjoyed this novel which is about identical twins and their identities. There's so much in this story, which is set between 1968 and 1986 and starts off in a small town called Mallard which was founded by a man whose "skin was white but would never be accepted as white and refused to be treated as Negroes".

While one of the the twins disappears, without telling her sister, to marry a white man who doesn't know her background, the other twin struggles with her loss of identity through losing her sister, and falls into an abusive relationship. The story follows the contrast in their lives and is a fascinating tale of race, gender and identity.

As soon as I'd finished it, I looked up to see what else she's written - The Mothers. So that's on my reading list.... Any of you got any recommendations?

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

A Makeover



Before you (or I) get excited, I must just say that it's not me having the makeover, but my kitchen.

Until I wrote this, I'd never realised that miniscule kitchens were such a pattern in my life.

I've never had a fitted kitchen - the first flat I bought in London was so tiny it could accommodate one anorexic and that was sideways on. The second flat wasn't much better. Then after I left London, I finally bought a tiny cottage with, again, a minute kitchen. Luckily a friend of a friend was an architect so she designed a very imaginative kitchen making use of every corner (and believe me, we needed it).

Then when Pip and I moved here, there was once again - yes - a tiny kitchen. Luckily he was not only very practical but extremely imaginative so he made the kitchen worktops out of wood which he then varnished, and our other worktop was an old school table that had been raised to the right height with the addition of some wooden balls underneath the legs.

Since Pip died, the table became riddled with woodworm so the Tooth Fairy took it out in the yard and demolished it - it literally disappeared in a cloud of wood dust, there was so much woodworm. Then it went up my chimney. So I lost a worktop area.

And recently I've realised that not only have I no workspace, but that the wooden worktop is really scarred and splintering. It has water damage. It's not easy to keep clean. So I decided it was time for a Makeover. However, never having done this before (I know, at my age it's incredible) and also having very little interest, this did not make life easy.

The Tooth Fairy took me to B&|Q where I nearly passed out at the prices. And so much bewildering choice.... taps, cabinets, worktops, sinks - my head was spinning after 5 minutes and we had to leave. I took one look at the catalogue later that night and again my mind whirled in despair.

"How about looking on Marketplace?" said the Tooth Fairy, which was a much better suggestion. We found an island unit near Helston last week and, while it was too big, it was a lovely afternoon, so we took Lainy on to Godrevy for her first trip so the afternoon wasn't wasted.

Since then the Tooth Fairy and Joe upstairs have both offered to help with the Makeover. We went to Praze-an-Beeble on Sunday to get a sink, then to B&Q to get a worktop and other bits, and now they are attempting to fit the sink into the old plumbing. I'm keeping well out of this.

But hopefully, by the end of the week, courtesy of my wonderful friends, I may have an operational kitchen again. With space. I can't see why people get excited about a Huge Brand New Kitchen, but I shall treasure my new little space.....

Thursday, 19 November 2020

What are you reading?

I belong to a book group and have done for the last 15 years or so - maybe more! Over the years this group has evolved but there are usually about 6-8 of us who meet once a month reading books from the library. This means we get whatever they’ve currently got 10 copies of.

This time it was George Orwell’s "The Road to Wigan Pier". I am a fan of Orwell’s work. I like his tight prose, his fantastic descriptions and his ability to bring everything to life. However, reading this in week two of Lockdown Two, with death rates rising around the country as well as the world - well, to be honest I could have done with something a bit more uplifting. I got as far as Chapter Three and switched to something a bit more cheerful. I did want to sleep, after all.

Before that I read "Wild Mary", the biography of the amazing Mary Wesley. Like most writers, she had a fascinating and turbulent life, with many lovers - not surprising given her beauty and intelligence. That was a book that will stay with me for a long while, not least because she was 70 before she got a major publishing deal.

Also from the library is Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig, who is one of the best writers about dealing with mental health problems that I’ve come across. He’s been through it, still goes through it, and is able to write so well about it. Any of his books are worth reading.

Having abandoned Wigan Pier, I started "Step by Step" by Simon Reeve. I found his account of his early life fascinating - another man who had a lot of problems with depression in early life and seriously contemplated suicide. But through a lot of hard work he has ended up with a career he loves, and a family he adores. Not bad!

I’ve also got several novels to be read - Rosanna Ley’s latest, From Venice with Love - her books are always a lovely mix of foreign travel and Dorset, but this one is also set partly in Cornwall, so I shall enjoy getting lost in that.

I picked up Jessie Burton’s the Confession in the supermarket a while ago and then realised that I’d read the hardback version from the library last year. Damn. But it was long enough ago that I have forgotten much of it.

So that’s my eclectic mix of reading over the last month or so… What about you?

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Ideas



This just goes to show that you can take interesting pictures in the rain. Though I agree it's not that interesting, and it does rather sum up Lockdown Two....

But I digress. Writers are often asked where their ideas come from. In the case of my walks books, frequently a friend has suggested the writer concerned - this happened with Cornish Writers and Daphne du Maurier. In the case of Poldark - well, the tv series of Poldark went global overnight and I realised that if I didn’t write a book of Poldark walks, someone else would and I couldn’t have that! Rosamunde Pilcher was brought about by the number of German tourists who visit Cornwall - and are very welcome too. Though obviously we haven’t had many this year…

When it comes to fiction, the idea for HUNGER came from an incident that occurred when I was in the back seat of a friend’s car. Her new boyfriend said something I shan’t repeat but it was very suggestive and he looked back to see my reaction. It made me feel very awkward, and when I was telling the Tooth Fairy about it, some time later, I said, “if this was a novel, he’d be the baddie”. We looked at each other and that was the start of one of the characters. There's a motto to this, of course....!!

I also knew I wanted to draw on particular experiences of my own, as well as that of others, so that created a theme. The planning and plotting took place over many, many breakfasts in Wethers with the Tooth Fairy. A great deal of what we cooked up together (pardon the pun) ended up being removed, but we had great fun and it was lovely to share in the planning.

The idea for my next one, which has a working title of SMELLING THE FUTURE, came about when I was having a drink with a friend soon after Moll died. (Come to think of it, this was the only time since lockdown I’ve been out for a drink. And I used to meet friends in the pub several times a week!) But anyway...

We were sitting outside our local hostelry and, as a Moll Fan, she was devastated and wanted to know what had happened. That grew to telling her about my eventful life during Moll’s reign, and my friend looked at me and said, “This is your next book.”

Pauline is very direct, extremely clever, and is usually right. But in this instance, I thought - oh, no. It seemed too - too personal. But then the more she talked about how I might write it, the more I thought - actually she’s a genius.

So that is how my next idea came about. It's still in the planning stages though I have written a short story about part of it. Whether Pauline is proved to be a genius depends largely on my writing, of course, and how the publishing world might view it. But she’s right, they like stories told from a different angle, so we will see….

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Outdoors



This being the first day of Lockdown Two, our outdoor life is becoming increasingly important. My social life mainly consists of socially distanced walks with friends. And as I have a dog that needs walking, and I love being outside, even if I’m not researching new walks for my books, that ticks a lot of boxes for me.

I appreciate that many people don’t enjoy walking as much as I do, but one thing that the first lockdown did was make many people appreciate the outdoors. Spring became an exercise in appreciating the wonder of nature bursting forth, helped, of course, by spectacular weather.

Now we are at the other end of the scale of the year. Autumn’s colours are always fantastic, but we are heading towards an uncertain winter which makes us all uneasy. Like many others, I suffer badly from SAD, but getting out does help.

The year I wrote Walks in the Footsteps of Poldark was the wettest winter for 100 years. I had a deadline so I had to put together the book in six months - winter months - which meant a lot of grey, dismal walks. (It also meant tearing round the county on the Easter weekend - the first sunny weekend for six months - taking pictures of the walks in sunshine .

But each grey walk was an adventure. A part of discovering more about Winston Graham, and his Poldark characters, or settings. It gave the day a focus, a reason. So next time you feel like doing a walk, pick up a walks book - one of mine if you feel like it! Walk alongside with me. I’d love to share it with you. And give your day a focus. A reason to get up, to go out, to explore.

I find getting out, even if it’s raining, helps to get through those grey depressing days. I don’t mean getting soaked - though I did that twice on Saturday - but even getting home cold and wet had a certain pleasure. I felt so much better for getting out of the house. I fed Lainy and then thought, well I’m cold and it’ll be dark soon so I’m going to get into bed with my book.

I did. I’ve just finished reading Wild Mary by Patrick Marnham, all about the amazing writer Mary Wesley, who my mum used to meet in the bookshop that mum worked in. And her story really gives me inspiration. Which, let’s face it, we all need more than ever at the moment.