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 (, 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?