Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Week Seven ...

Well this morning I am going to pick up the van, and my garage have said they are 99% sure that it is fixed. The problem has been intermittent trouble from the dash pod, they believe. But just in case, I asked them to fit an isolator switch for the battery. Call my cynical, but we're on Week Seven of Van Gate and I am not leaving anything to chance.

I'm also being taken to see a friend's mate who's a mechanical electrician, so he's going to look at the van on Friday morning and see if he can figure out the problem.

And while I'm sorry to bang on about Van Gate, it has really been getting me down. I feel as drained as the poor battery. But when I got the phone call to say the van was ready to pick up, my spirits shot up. Admittedly, the sun is shining which is a rarity at the moment, but the prospect of the van actually being FIXED - well, I felt this massive burden being lifted. Possibly.
I was thinking, as I walked Moll earlier, how lovely it would be not to have to worry about my van. I'm so fond of it - it's a real workhorse and has seen me and Pip through all sorts of crazy camping, different ideas of Pip's, and subsequently, since then, has felt like a benevolent older brother looking after me. (Well, until now, poor thing.)

So I will be more than delighted if this is the end of the road for this particular misadventure. I could feel my confidence, which has been trodden on severely over the last few weeks, pick up its head and shake itself, like a Peter Pan shadow. If I can once again rely on my trusty friend, we can soon be ready to fly out of the window again, into NeverLand. Well, maybe. I mustn't get too hopeful. I don't want to be disappointed again....

Everything recently has been on hold so it would be great to get going again, workwise and everything wise. We did do walk at Cot Valley on Friday which was great, so that's another for the book, and yesterday I was researching an artist called Gill Watkiss whose work I love. I met a friend for a drink in the evening and she brought along a friend who I'd met before - who turns out to be Gill Watkiss's daughter! Now isn't that a wonderful Cornish coincidence? It cheered me no end.

The only other spanner in the works is that my phone, which I use for taking pictures for my books, has decided it's too old to download pictures onto my iMac. The frustrating thing is that the phone works fine, but I do need to be able to use the camera. So it's finding another second hand phone. SIGH....
This wonderful tortoise was spotted on our walk last Friday. What a clever critter...

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

2020 Here We Come

Well, I had the quietest New Year's Eve and beginning of the new year ever, due to a tummy bug. No hangovers here, she says smugly, though I would rather have - I had to be taken home at 8.45 on New Year's Eve and put to bed. What a killjoy!

So I had a very sober, very quiet start to the year - and very little food as I wasn't up to it. (No, I know - me not eating!) But we did see Cats - liked the costumes, choreography was good and so was make up but wasn't too taken with the rest of it. Little Women was very good, but I enjoyed that very much and of course all the struggle about becoming a writer had special meaning for me. Next on the list is Jo Jo Rabbit, this weekend. I love going to the cinema, particularly at this time of year, and being able to walk down the hill, get cheap seats (there are advantages to being over 60) and cheap drinks make it all a cheap afternoon or evening out. A lovely bit of escapism.

However with low energies, it's been difficult to get going this year. Mind you, I always find this a peculiar time of year when my energies are always depleted, so I'm hoping that I will soon be firing on all cylinders again and start planning my writing schedules, looking forward to my writing holiday in February and planning our next French break. Having had no break longer than 4 days last year (which was mostly spent in a garage in Bude), I am hoping to get more in the way of time off this year.

As for the van - well, it was towed off to the garage yesterday and I await news. No comment....

In the meantime, like most of my friends, it's a question of easing ourselves back into the working week gently.

But here's wishing you all the best of 2020. And now I will go and have a quick snooze....

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Last of the Year

I thought I'd write a Goodbye to This Year post and then next week - or sooner - can be a Greetings To 2020 if I feel like it.

It's customary to look back over the past year which has been a mixed bag -as ever. Some amazing new people have come into my life which has been great. One in particular, knowing of my Van Troubles (yes, they are still ongoing), drove me up to my Mum's in Devon after Christmas and came and picked me up two days later. I was so touched and overwhelmed, I couldn't speak which, as those of you who know me well, is a rarity.

My French speaking friends have proved to be amazing, even if much of our French conversation class has been spent, latterly, discussing my past love life. Apologies to you all but at least it widened our vocabulary! And we had a fantastic trip to Roscoff in September and aim for another one in 2020.

Talking of holidays, I'm looking forward to my writing 'holiday' (which will be very hard work but great, I hope) in Spain in February - and a good chance to meet other writers.

Work is interesting and ongoing if not regular, and it's been great working with someone with such an interesting mind. Long may it continue. Otherwise, work on the new walks book (Cornish artists) has been hampered by the ongoing bad weather but hopefully we will do a walk on Saturday. Likewise, work on the novel has halted due to my mentor having a lot of problems. But it will all sort out in the end. For once, I am curbing my impetuous nature and thinking with my Cornish head on - it will all happen dreckly. At the moment it's really good to have a break and catch up on sleep, which I have been sorely lacking.

The latter part of this year has been fraught with emotional upheavals and frustrations. But such is life. The van is still poorly, and although I have a courtesy car, the brake light keeps coming on which I find unnerving to say the least. The brakes work - albeit not very well - hence not wanting to drive far or fast, and definitely not all the way up to Devon and back. But at least I can poodle around here as necessary. Slowly. And no, it's not the brake fluid, Paul checked that on Christmas Day, bless him.

It would be lovely to have my wheels back soon in the new year but this has been going on for the last six weeks so I am resigned rather than hoping for the best, only to be disappointed - yet again.

So 2020 has some good things to look forward to. A Spanish trip which will further the novel and maybe spark a new one. More research work and another walks book. Another French trip, I hope, and another cheap trip or two to caravan parks with the doggies. It would be fantastic to meet someone who would also like to go exploring and maybe, one of these days, that person will come along.

The good thing about so many things going wrong latterly has made me realise what a fantastic bunch of friends I have. (And highlight those that can't be bothered which, I'm amazed to see, number one.) You know who you are and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Mobility looms....or does it?

I had hoped to be writing this with a working van sitting outside but sadly no. Another week of relying on others for lifts - and how fortunate I am to have such good mates. A big thanks to one and all who have ferried me around. I am most grateful.

But hopefully - and I'm not going into details, it's too boring - the van should be ready on Friday. I say should because I don't take anything for granted these days.

Yesterday we had a wonderful day of pure sunshine. It was so lovely to go down to Cot Valley - near St Just - and spend the afternoon walking without a coat I was so warm. The tide was out and it looked almost summery with little wavelets lapping gently at the smooth expanse of sand, the barest brush of a breeze, and feel warmth on our faces. Actually we got lost and went too far - and this was following some directions I'd written ten years ago, which says very little for my instructions. So just as well we are doing it again. In fact by the time we retraced our steps to where we should have diverted, we'd walked for nearly two hours and I was concerned about Moll who had walked more than her quota. But as Fiona said, it's a good excuse to go back.

Today, by contrast, has been like the end of the world. But I was taken by a friend to Helston to CAST, an amazing space of studios, performance rooms and all sorts and the most fantastic cafe with woodturner and stunning views over Helston. There I met the artist Lisa Wright for a fascinating talk and look around her studio. Do look at her work - she is exceptional - and will feature in my next walks book!

On that note I will leave you. Moll and I got soaked several times this afternoon and I must eat and go off to French. The last this year, what a thought. And as I doubt I will write another blog this year, may I wish you all a good break. And hope the new year brings us all some peace, happiness, good health and good weather.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Van Gate

This was taken at the natural sea pool at Bude - at the beginning of last week - though it seems like months ago now.

I had expected to just get on with life once I got home as normal but the van has been jinxed. For some reason unknown to the countless people who have looked at my van, and the three other Breakdown people who have towed it away this last week, it keeps refusing to start in the mornings.

To say I am frustrated is putting it mildly. I am feeling as drained as the poor (new) battery appears to be. It seems strange that this dear van, which we bought about 15 years ago, has never once gone wrong and since our Bude trip can't seem to function. It's just been towed away again this morning and I'm awaiting verdict. Thank god for dear Paul who has driven over here more times than I care to think about to help with the van, and to everyone else who has and is offering me lifts.

Maybe one day this will all be over! It has put my Christmas plans into jeopardy as I don't dare drive anywhere on a bank holiday or day when garages will be shut, as Breakdown will only take you to a garage of your choice so if they're not open, then they won't take you. Hey ho. And the trains are due to be on strike, I gather.

Apart from that, I am working on some very interesting research which takes my mind off the van and will help pay some bills, and am looking at the first 4 chapters of my novel that I submitted while I await the final verdict from my mentor.

Christmas parties are looming this week - we had a great one for our French conversation groups last night in the pub where we all took and shared food - our singing party on Thursday and Book Group on Friday. So I am not wanting for festive spirit.

Life sometimes just throws stuff at you, doesn't it? I was talking to a dear relative yesterday whose son has just died from Motor Neurone Disease. Such a cruel illness. She said she knew she could talk to me as I'd lost someone I loved very much, and how she sometimes has to just try and get through that day. "I found sometimes it was an hour, or a half hour," I said.

But we do get through it, and I think the important thing is to remember that the really difficult times do pass. Grief becomes less raw, or we just get used to living alongside it. They are hell at the time, but eventually we look back and think, Thank God that's over, and there are - we hope - better times ahead.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

All is Well in My World (or What world are YOU in?)

Well, I was so excited to be going away - and we had a good journey up to Bude, stopping in Wadebridge which is half way for some food and a quick shunt round the charity shops. Got to Summerleaze beach (Bude) for coffee and a lovely walk along the beach and up over the coastal footpath a bit then headed back to the van as it was getting dark.

Leaving the beach, the battery light came on. Now, what I know about vans can be written on the back of a stamp but even I know the red lights on dashboard aren’t good. Still, we got to the caravan park and I was so tired I thought, well, I’ll worry about it in the morning. Or rather, overnight. So by morning I rang around all the local garages (thank god for the internet) and eventually found one who said they couldn’t fix it that day but bring it in and they’d try and do it Monday.

To cut a very long - and ongoing - story short, we were told it needed a new alternator, go back and don’t drive at all over the weekend, bring it in Monday morning.

In fact it was really restful having two days of no driving and it didn’t rain!! We explored Kilkhampton on foot - I’d walked there a few years ago so knew it a bit - and they had a shop there so we could buy food, even had a coffee and walked the dogs there. The pub the London Inn was fantastic - so friendly, and dogs welcomed there too.

Van wouldn’t start Monday so had to get breakdown out and it took 8 hours to get the van fixed, as the wrong alternator was sent. As the garage is on an industrial estate several miles out of Bude, we walked round there, and became experts in Cafes on Industrial Estates in the area. The Crib Shack was brilliant.

But as time went on, and we had two dogs needing distraction, we got a taxi into Bude, walked along the beach there. Another coffee. Had to spend another 3 hours waiting for van to be ready. Taxi back to pick it up.

Got home and collapsed, enjoyed our last evening. Then, having packed up the van the next morning, glorious day, had our journey home all planned - the van wouldn’t start. Garage came out, said new battery. Back to garage, fixed new battery. Another visit to the Crib Shack.

Drove home via Wadebridge, and dear Jac treated me to coffee and we shared a cake. She was choking with laughter, looking at the second hand books, and showed me a marvellous coaster that said, “All is Well in My World.” On the back, further words of wisdom - “Everything is working out for my highest good. Out of this situation only good will come. I am safe”
We sat and cried with laughter reading that…

And on we went home, all well until we got to Carnon Downs - and the red battery light came on. It was all I could do not to cry. But I dropped Jac off, got home - and there was a parking space outside my house.

Rang my dear mate Paul who said to ring Breakdown (the 5th call to them) to see what the problem was, and he would come over today and have a look. Apparently it’s a coupling (that’s a part, not a relationship) and might take a while to get said part but he will get it asap. He, along with another friend who’s mechanically minded, and the breakdown guy, all said they don’t think I needed a new alternator. Thus saving £300. Paul is on the case, bless him…

I’m so unnerved by the episode - to say nothing of the £450 and costs rising - that I’m happy not to drive for a few days. But what this has taught me is the power of friends.

You know that wonderful saying, “Before you self diagnose depression, make sure you are not, in fact, surrounded by arseholes?” How true!

These past few days have made me realise that if I’d been with the wrong person, this holiday could have been a disaster. As it was, we had a great time exploring on foot. We got helpless giggles. The caravan was centrally heated, large enough to sleep six, comfy beds and plenty of room, and lovely and quiet, being December, surrounded by green fields and a nearby village. The dogs loved it, and I would happily go back there like a shot.

So while I could have done without the ongoing van hassle, I know I’ve got amazing mates in Jac and Daisy, Paul and Viv and everyone else who has supported me through this palaver. And of course dear Paul who is at this moment fighting my corner with the garage.

And best of all, I got back to a really encouraging email about my novel. So maybe All Is Well In My World. Well, a bit of it anyway.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Life Adjustments

As this is a rather dead time of year in terms of flowers, I found these -a bunch of anemones in the summer. Roll on longer days....

Despite the recent upheavals, I’ve nearly finished rewriting the first three chapters of my novel and can send them off at the end of the week for further comments. I’ve found this really difficult to do, though once I got into the swing of it, it was better. Like anything I suppose. I'm not overly confident about what I've written, but I'm aiming to send it off to my mentor who I hope will be able to point me in the right direction.

I’m aiming to finish the rough draft by Friday morning when, crossing fingers and toes and barring any further disasters, I am hoping to go away for four whole days to a caravan park near Bude. I know, a couple of weeks in Greece or Spain would have been preferable, but that didn’t happen this year, so Bude it is.

And frankly, I am just desperate for a break. The weather forecast isn’t brilliant, at least for the first two days, and keeping two dogs clean and dry in a caravan could be a challenge, but it will be good to get away and explore a bit. I’ve looked up the nearest vet in case Moll is poorly and am packing Scrabble, books and cards plus we will take wine and grub and DVDs and aim to just go and relax.

When I first started working for myself, I got very stressed and run down and a friend said, "Just because you're working for yourself doesn't mean you don't need holidays. You should aim to get away every three months."

Wise advice which I didn't heed this year - though admittedly that wasn't entirely my fault, being let down twice. But next year I am going to plan holidays better. I’ve got my writing trip in Spain in February which I am looking forward to - though that will be a lot of hard work. And hope for another French trip, and also some trips with my Moll. If the weather improves later on in the year I will take the van and go camping with some friends down the road who also have a little campervan. So that’s a rough plan. I live in distrust of making Big Plans as life has a habit of turning them inside out and back to front. So loose plans are best, I find.

My dear upstairs neighbour is - again fingers crossed - going in to have his hip operated on tomorrow. It’s already been postponed once which caused a lot of stress and grief, so I really hope it all goes ahead tomorrow. We’ve been trying to organise him being taken there and picked up - I was going to do the latter but I will be in Bude. So far we’ve got the drop off organised and are working on the pick up and aim to make his recovery as smooth as possible, bless him.

And lastly - courtesy of a very kind friend, Moll is now in receipt of not just one but two ramps which should mean she doesn’t have to jump into the van, or up the steps. She’s taken to the van one like a duck to water (somewhat apt in this weather), though the steps one is a bit slippery so may need some adjustments.

But life’s all about adjustments, isn’t it?