Wednesday, 13 November 2019

I am writing this from a snuffly keyboard at Frobisher. Moll is, I am glad to say, fully recovered though I am terrified in case the fever should descend again. (I was petrified last weekend, kept checking her breathing.) If it does, it means more tests which are very stressful for us both and, of course, incredibly expensive. And I would dread the outcome. Still, there's little to be gained in worrying about that, and Moll certainly isn't. She is bouncy again and that is wonderful to see so I hope to enjoy much more of that for as long as we can.

I also wondered why Pip fell in love with her, so suddenly, when he saw her, 14 years ago. An artist friend, enquiring about Moll last week, gave me a clue. "You're just the same," she said. "You've both got sort of the same hair, the same temperament, you're both sensitive, highly strung, very loyal and bright. The way you react to things is the same - you even have the same metabolism." (We both shake when hungry.)

I had to laugh when she said that - and thought, well now I know why Pip fell for her. He was getting another version of me but with four legs. Quadruple trouble...

And I will end this Tribute to Moll with a big thank you to the incredibly kind friends who have made the past week or so a bit easier. To the free osteopath session I received last week "because you're having such a rough time". To the wonderfully generous money towards my (considerable) vet bills. That in itself was amazing - but the friend who insisted I have the money has a very very poorly dog herself.

I don't know what I've done to deserve such generosity, but all I can say is a huge thank you. And to all my friends, near and far, you know where I am. Call me when you need me. And actually, don't wait till you need me. Call me anyway.

And as a PS - I'm on Radio Cornwall at 4.10pm this afternoon talking about my latest book, Walks in the Footsteps of Rosamunde Pilcher. Tune in for a giggle!

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

The Fighter

Nine years ago, almost to the day, I had to call an ambulance (against Pip's wishes) because he had been ill and in bed (unheard of) and despite countless home visits from GPs, he had become even more ill and I was terrified.

Last Sunday, at 2.30 am I woke to Moll panting and shaking uncontrollably. She sometimes does this if she's heard fireworks or seen a kite or something that frightens her, but that wasn't likely in the middle of the night, so I was worried. Rang the out of hours vet who suggested giving her some Metacam and that seemed to do the trick. Eventually we settled down again, but I didn't sleep and when we finally got up, she had lost all her energy, was shaking and panting again.

To cut a very long story short, I had to take her to the out of hours vet (over an hour's round trip in horrendous rain and wind, flooded lanes and fallen trees) where they did blood tests, gave her antibiotic shot. The second time - dear Viv drove me as I was exhausted - Moll's fever had risen again so she had an opiate painkiller which made her hallucinate. She was up and down all night, couldn't settle poor thing. She is normally a very secure dog - she doesn't cling to me but just enjoys our company together. Now she couldn't let me out of her sight, was pleading me with those cataract fogged eyes - "What's going on? Please stop it!" It was heartbreaking, and I felt so powerless - to say nothing of terrified.

Back to my own vet on Monday - twice. The first trip, her temperature was down and she seemed better, but they had no idea what was causing this fever. "It could be cancer or it could be endocarditis," said my vet. Endocarditis was what took Pip into hospital nine years ago. I had a horrifying feeling that history was repeating itself and I was about to pitch back into that nightmare.

Moll flagged as soon as we got home from the vet in the morning. Her temperature soared Monday evening. Back to vets. Advised try and keep her calm and quiet. If necessary take her to out of hours vet maybe midnight if she wasn't better but this would stress her out even more (to say nothing of what it was doing to me). Dear Viv offered to drive me. At midnight! I found out that the only time Moll relaxed was if I was in bed, so we went to bed early, she just about managed to jump onto the duvet - after five attempts - and finally she went to sleep.

The vet wanted to run tests to see what was going on but the specialist couldn't be contacted on Tuesday. Still, we had to go back for another temperature test. Like most dogs, Moll is terrified of vets and having a thermometer stuck up her bum every time we visited hasn't helped. Doesn't help her temperature either, but they take that into account.

I was also asked to get a wee sample (to eliminate a possible urine infection) which meant stalking her with a yellow mini funnel stuck into the top of a plastic tube. The idea is that you shove it under their bum while they're having a wee, then it trickles into the tube. I looked like a Victorian butterfly hunter, hovering behind her with this yellow monstrosity and Moll was extremely suspicious. She kept looking round as if to say, "What the hell are you doing NOW? Is that another needle or WHAT?"

Finally, last night at the vet, her temperature was nearly normal. Her breathing is still too fast but she had two short walks and is eating again. Yes, for those of of us who know Moll well, she went off her food. This has NEVER happened. But she's back eating now and although she's not out of the woods yet, she is getting there. I hope. The wee sample was clear so they're not going to run tests as it's too stressful all round. When the vet said her temperature was lowered I was so relieved I wanted to buy everyone dinner, a holiday, a drink - anything. Despite the fact that this episode has cost me dear.

And having been dreading Bonfire Night and all the fireworks, which would make Moll's temperature rocket again, it was reasonably quiet. Phew. (Which just goes to show that the things we worry about rarely happen. It's the unknown that knocks us for six.)

The best thing to come out of this horrendous episode is that I realised what incredible friends I have. Four of my closest friends came round and texted all the time to see how she was, how I was managing. I cried a lot. My stomach has been in knots so it's been a struggle to eat. My right shoulder (my stress indicator) is around my right ear, despite lots of yoga exercises. I check her constantly, to see how her breathing is. Is she shaking? How does she look? The fear still circulates in my blood stream, lies in a rancid pool in my belly, but it's receding.

So for now, she seems to be on the mend. Fingers crossed. And it is wonderful beyond measure to have my girl back. I really thought I was losing her.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Jumping in the deep end

Viv and I walked along Mylor Creek on Sunday after horrendous weather on Friday and Saturday - and this week has just been terrible. Torrential rain is one thing but howling gales as well make me feel really miserable. So I've put on my SAD lamp - I'm never sure if it works but it can't do any harm - and clearing my decks before getting stuck into my novel again.

It was this time last year that I was teetering on the edge, feeling really nervous about starting to write it - because I didn't know if I could. I proved to myself that I could, but having had two months away from it while waiting for essential feedback, I've got out of the swing of writing it. Admittedly, the changes I am going to have to make means that there has been a shift in the entire novel - it will still the same story essentially but pared down. It will, I hope, be a stronger book. I have faith that these decisions are the right ones, but it's still daunting.

But having had those two months off, I'm terrified of starting. All those fears have rushed back, just the same if not worse. Admittedly I have to do a lot of planning to make sure I know what I'm going to write, but it is really scary and I don't feel ready yet. I'm hoping I will feel ready in a week or so, but in the meantime I just need to think it all through which is essential.

You know when there are things - big things - you have to do, and you feel sick at the very thought of it? You weigh up the pros and cons, and your stomach gives that horrible flutter, then plummets, like descending in a very fast lift. Your pulse races and you can't concentrate, nothing makes sense. I've been doing some of that too, but I always write things down. Well, being a writer, of course I do. My thoughts make more sense to me through my fingers - they become more cohesive.

And then, well, at some point - when you're ready - you've just got to jump in the deep end. Which is what I will be doing very soon with my novel.

In case you think that it's all doom and gloom in the Flowerpot household, it certainly isn't. Admittedly Moll has had another upset tummy but fingers crossed she's OK now. Then the van broke down on Sunday but dear Paul spent hours fixing it yesterday. And my painful tooth has subsided. But the good news is that I finished my deadlines a week early for my research work, and the new walks book is going well. I'm hoping to do another walk next week - weather permitting.

In the meantime, here's another antidote to this horrible weather. Another of Terence Coventry's wonderful sculptures.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

An artist and novel changes

I had a lovely weekend away and although the weather bucketed down on the Friday, it cleared up and we had a fabulous walk along the beach - Moll went bonkers, having been cooped up in the van for hours. And later found a pub called the Jolly Sailor which was dog friendly and provided very good food and wine at decent prices.

On the way back I had arranged to interview the artist Amanda Hoskin for my next book. We met at the pub in Charlestown and she was lovely - as well as being a dog lover which was fortunate as Moll was in on the act. She has also asked me to write the introduction for her next coffee table book which she is working on - so we can help each other. Do have a look at her work - I think it's fantastic. If I could afford to buy her work I would!

Apropos of nothing, I was given a big plant which has suddenly exploded into flower. They look like baby chrysanthemums and are really joyous at this time of year when little else is flowering.
Just before we went off for the weekend, I'd had some severe comments back about my novel. The previous comments I'd had were all very complimentary - loved it, thought it dealt well with difficult topics and deserved to be printed. But someone else (who I trust, having helped several other people I know get published) was much more harsh.

She's certainly taken a lot of trouble and thought and finally came back saying what she thought I should do, which is ditch a lot of the plot and start the entire novel earlier in the timeline. Which means a huge rewrite. I was really confused, having had two such different comments but talked to another author who said she'd had exactly the same thing. I need to do what's right for my book, and I am mulling through that, but I do believe she's right. And while it does mean a lot of rewriting, I know all the stuff anyway having done detailed character biographies when I started out.

In her words, this should "make a decent novel" so I need to take time to mull it over and figure out how to do it. I've just been landed with some work which has to be done by the end of October so that will stop me rushing the novel.
It does go to show how difficult the whole process is - it really depends who reads your work and whether they like it or not.

But I'm not giving up! Wish me luck...

Tuesday, 15 October 2019


No, I haven't turned religious - this is the granite cross used as a navigational marker near Dodman Point - a walk for the new book last week.

When you live on your own you get used to not sharing a bed with someone. I have to say this is one of the things I really miss. Also eating alone. But it does teach you to be resilient. Ultimately you have only yourself to rely on.

I was a bit apprehensive, as I said, before going to Roscoff, as I didn’t know how we’d all get on, but in fact it worked so well and it was lovely to have people to eat with. To go to sleep in a house with other people.

We shared some very personal things which always brings you closer. I learned that I have some true friends, and I am so grateful for that.

Last week I had some unexpected news that really shocked and hurt me - particularly as it meant the holiday I’d been looking forward to whistled out of the window quicker than you could say ‘knife’, with no mention of an alternative date. (Why knife, I wonder, or am I mixing metaphors?)

A week later, the sense of being let down still sits in my gut in an undigested lump, too sore to think about, let alone prod. A cancer of my feelings, raw and bleeding, that I can’t go near.

A dear friend once said to me that friends are people who you would forgive, no matter what they do. I was discussing this with Anne, on a walk this morning and she said, “I think the opposite is true. A friend shouldn't need forgiving. If a friend lets you down, that is the ultimate betrayal.”

I agree. To me, friends are those who will always support you, who never let you down. They are people you know you can trust.

And while I might have had a kick in the guts, I’m so fortunate to have several dear souls who I am honoured to call friends. This, of course, being one of them...

Thursday, 3 October 2019


Well, having been a little apprehensive about our Roscoff trip, we had such a brilliant time! The night ferry over went very well, we landed in Roscoff and from then on the sun shone - some of the time - but most importantly we had no rain which, given the weather here, was a real bonus.

We walked miles every day exploring and found our way around the town, had some lovely food, good wine, lovely coffee, and brought some goodies back too. We have cemented firm friendships and all our French improved remarkably.

The only slight drawback was the ferry crossing on the way home which was - rough. We were all ill apart from our lovely professeur who took charge and looked after us all. And at least the rough crossing was on the way home so we could recover here rather than it ruining the holiday.

So here's to our next trip, next year! Here is one of the sculptures on the sculpture trail around Roscoff....

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Une petite vacance

When you look at this picture you might wonder why I want to leave Cornwall but as we all know, it's really important to recharge our batteries from time to time. I had hoped to do a recce for my novel, the end of which is set in France, but on receiving an unenthusiastic response from the friend I was hoping to go with, I tackled my French group. Well, I say 'group', but there are three of us in the intermediate group and that's including our lovely friend and teacher.

They said YES! And while we aren't going down to Pays de la Loire, which is the area I want to recce, we are going to Roscoff courtesy of Brittany Ferries leaving on Thursday - overnight crossing from Plymouth to Roscoff, arriving at 8am Friday morning. We have two and a half days there before returning on Sunday afternoon.

We booked it about a month ago, on receipt of an email offering 25% off ferry charges, and there we sat, crouched round my computer with a glass of wine each. The excitement was quite something - while I haven't had a holiday this year, you'd think that none of us had ever been abroad before!

Just to compound matters, it looks like the forecast is rain. And rain. And possibly high winds (ferry could be interesting) which wasn't something we'd considered, having had a long spell of dryish weather. But we have three days in Roscoff to explore, speak French and have a huge amount of fun.

I am now kitted out with a waterproof coat (all mine are from car boot sales and leak like sieves) and another friend has lent me waterproof boots. I'm also taking my waterproof trousers so I might not look tres chic, but at least I will be dry.

Moll is going to a dear friend in Penryn for a little holiday of her own, and I'm sure our reunion on Sunday night will be worth recording.

Eh bien - vive la France, et vive les vacances!