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.