Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Ten Random Things About Me

This is a tag taken up from The Rotten Correspondent.

My first job was as a waitress in a nearby pub when I was 14. Being the smallest there, I was chased round the kitchen by the German chef, who was permanently drunk. He would deposit me over the chip fryer before retiring elsewhere with his bottle.

My mother used to work as a marriage guidance counsellor for what is now called Relate. But whenever my marriage has hit problems, I never felt I wanted to talk to her about it. One, she would have worried too much and two, it felt disloyal to Himself.

I’m a late starter in life: I was 41 when I got married, in my mid thirties when I got something published.

If I could change one thing about my life so far it would be to have started writing earlier. I never felt able to write all the time I lived and worked in London, so I evidently should have got out of there earlier. On the other hand, I had a career I loved.

I was made redundant at the age of 30. Overnight my world crashed. I couldn’t get another job, couldn’t pay the mortgage and didn’t know what to do. So I rented the flat out and came to Cornwall, knowing no one. It was very hard, but I'm glad I did.

Since arriving in Cornwall I have realised that I can sing. I had no idea. Rehearsals start next week for Pyjama Game and I can’t wait to get singing again.

I’ve always been unconventional. This isn’t always a good thing in life. It make for endless problems particularly when you’re growing up. However, now I’m older it doesn’t worry me so much. It’s part of who I am.

I don’t really enjoy eating out. We went for a meal last night with some people we don’t have much in common with and it was awful. Our hostess had cooked loads of food but my stomach twisted into knots and I couldn’t eat. I could see she thought I didn’t like it/was being rude and she looked upset, so my stomach twisted even more. I was worried about the animals because of the fireworks and as I don’t have anything in common with our hosts, there was nothing I could say that would interest them and vice versa. Boy was I glad to get home!

Like most of us, I have times of chronic insecurity, particularly to do with my writing. I think it’s like being an actor – they’re all paranoid as well, but I guess you have to be if you inhabit a different world for most of your life.

I hate shopping. More than that, I hate shops and cities. I have to go to London in a few weeks and I’m dreading it! But if I’m well enough to go, it will be great to meet some fellow writers. It’s called networking…..

Anyone else want to have a go?

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Taking a Chance

Our first weekend together, he not only locked me in but abandoned me for the entire day. I’ve never been conventional, but this behaviour did make me wonder what he was capable of.
I met Himself through mutual friends who lived in Cornwall. I was living in Devon at the time but came down to help make a short film at the Celtic Village near Chacewater. Among straw huts, thick mud and cameras we began talking and I soon forgot that he was old enough to be my father. The next day he invited me to see his workshop, full of gardening equipment, old cars and jewellery making equipment. He was a tall, lanky fellow with a beard, white hair and mischievous blue eyes. Someone that I immediately felt comfortable with.
Several weeks and a few phone calls later I received a letter addressed to Dear Curls, inviting me to spend the weekend on White Heather, his 100 year old wooden oyster boat, moored in a stone walled dock near the Pandora, a thatched waterside pub. The letter ended, “I even have a hot water bottle on board and funnily enough it has the same name as me.”
‘How thoughtful!’ I cried, showing the letter to a friend who looked at me darkly.
‘Flowerpot,’ she said gently. ‘I don’t think he’s got a hot water bottle.’
As indeed, it turned out, he hadn’t.
That first night Himself and I spent hours talking before collapsing into bed at 3.30am. Early the next morning he made me tea and toast and left to visit his very ill mother. Exhausted, I was glad to lie on deck in the hazy sunshine and read the morning away, lulled by the gentle rocking of the boat.
Later, I managed to negotiate the horrifyingly steep gangplank and decided to explore the surrounding woods. It wasn’t until I got in the car to go and buy some cigarettes that I realised I was a prisoner. The five barred gate to the dock was firmly padlocked, and I had no key. At that moment it started raining and I wondered how long I would be marooned in this isolated spot with only suspicious swans for company.
I returned to the boat, sat uneasily below decks, and just as I was beginning to give up hope, Himself skipped across the gangplank. ‘I’ve brought you a sex toy,’ he cried, handing me a Cornish piskie that he’d made from Cornish tin. (To be worn around my neck, I should add.)
I soon discovered that life on board was very different to life ashore. Cooking was done on a single gas ring, lodged on a lump of cast iron ballast. The toaster was a piece of wire bent into a diamond shape and attached to a stick; anything else was cooked in sequence, in a variety of saucepans. Our first morning he earned my sleepy delight by offering to teach me how to make toast in exchange for sex. Well, I thought happily, how could I resist?
One day, Himself collected me from the train and stopped on the way back, taking his time to roll a cigarette. He kept glancing skywards and eventually, thinking he’d gone mad, I looked up. There on a telegraph pole was a handwritten sign proclaiming I LOVE CURLS, and my mouth dropped open. Quite an original declaration. The sign, and Himself’s love life, became the subject of intense scrutiny in the community from then on.
For the next two months, I spent every weekend with him, wrapped in a cloud of lust. His friends were intrigued at the much younger woman in his life (he was 56 to my 38 years) but no one thought it was serious. My friends and family laughed at this whirlwind romance, and my work colleagues grew resigned to me arriving starry eyed and exhausted on a Monday morning straight off the Cornish train.
One day I got off the train at Truro to find a figure standing on the platform dressed in a blue suit, dark glasses and peaked cap, clutching a hand made sign saying LADY FLOWERPOT. He’d come straight from his mother’s funeral and this was his way of cheering himself up: dressing as a chauffeur in order to collect his new lady love.
One Sunday Himself was unusually silent. I grew worried, and was almost relieved to be going back, but at the station he said, ‘I’d like you to think about moving down here.’ On the journey home, my head span. What did he mean? I’d been too dumbfounded to ask. Did he mean live with him on White Heather? Marry him? Babies? What?
By the time I arrived home there were six messages on my answerphone, all proclaiming undying love. As I knew he was ringing from the pub, I didn’t take these too seriously, but the next day, when these messages were reiterated in a sober frame of mind, I thought again. I loved his intelligence, his quirky sense of humour and his unconventionality, and while I didn’t doubt my feelings for him, I was less sure of his for me. I’d had several unhappy relationships – but this felt different. Why not take a chance? What did I have to lose other than a broken heart? I ignored those who urged caution, took a deep breath and gave in my notice at work.
My mother thought I was mad, jacking everything in to live with a much older man, whom I’d known for three months. But had she known him better, she would have realised how serious he was when they met. Gone were the t shirt and elderly cords, the socks and sandals. In their place a new pair of trousers, white shirt and tie and proper lace up shoes. Towering over my minute mother, this erudite man stuttered greetings and stared at the ground. To my amazement, my sophisticated mother seemed just as incapable of conversation, and eyed each other warily, no doubt calculating the risk factor.
As there wasn’t enough room on White Heather for me, my computer and my cat, we had to rent a bungalow. Himself and I were both used to living alone, so the original arrangement was that he would live on White Heather, staying half the week with me. But that plan never came to fruition. I remember feeling desperately in need of some space and hissing down the phone to a friend, ‘he’s still here. He doesn’t seem to want to go.’
And he never did.
Our life together got off to a rocky start when Himself decided, after a week of living together, to give up smoking. Being a strong minded fellow, he was stoic about the horrendous withdrawal symptoms, merely becoming bad tempered and, at one point, throwing a jar of marmalade at the wall.
It took a bad bout of bronchitis to make me give up cigarettes, and, not having realised how addictive nicotine is, I spent days either sobbing into Himself’s jumper, or howling with rage. I finally won the battle and haven’t smoked since.
Next for a makeover was White Heather, and for the next four years, Himself spent every spare moment refurbishing his precious boat. I was all for it initially, but soon grew to resent the time he spent with his Other Woman. My help proved more of a hindrance, so I went for long solitary walks, desperately missing my friends and wondering what the hell I’d done. Life improved when I finally got a permanent job and made friends locally, but those early days were far from easy.
Eight years ago, on Easter Saturday, Himself insisted we visit White Heather. We climbed inside the bare shell of the boat, and there he went down on one knee and proposed. Weeping happily, I accepted, we told our respective families, then ran away and tied the knot in Gibraltar.
Himself found living on land very difficult, but he has acclimatised and now, from our front window we can see Falmouth harbour, the village of Flushing opposite, the Fal Estuary and out to sea. He can survey the movement of every vessel in and out of Falmouth docks, tell me which cruise liners are in and which boat has broken its moorings. A sort of unpaid harbour master.
It’s eleven years from when we met and life hasn’t been plain sailing. With great sadness we sold White Heather; she was a young person’s boat and I found her very heavy to sail. Boats have always been Himself’s life, so his grieving process was acute and protracted, not helped by problems with his business. However, finally the business was sold and life started to improve. I packed in a stressful job to become self employed, and life was further enhanced by the arrival of a Jack Russell puppy, with whom Himself fell instantly and deeply in love.
But two years ago, Himself was diagnosed with prostate cancer, then pulmonary fibrosis, and the next six months were agonising while he battled with strong drugs and I wondered if I would lose him. Happily both conditions are now under control and Himself’s health is much improved. Courtesy of walking the dog he is two stone lighter, has more energy and a sense of purpose, and we are all much happier, except the cat, who swears a lot.
Himself and I are essentially very different. He likes his meat while I am a vegetarian. I love singing, ballet and musicals whereas his passion is jazz. He would rather stay at home whereas I love going out with friends. He has a slow metabolism and I am hyperactive. In fact, we don’t have anything in common other than a sense of humour and like minded intelligence. How we manage to live together without killing each other is a mystery.
But despite our differences, we have a bond that grows stronger every year. Recently I was asked when I first fell in love with Himself and the image is clear. It was that first morning when he made me tea and toast, crouched over the gas ring wearing his favourite cream jumper. A lump caught in my throat, filling me up with choking, soaring love. I knew this was It. But I would never have told him that. He would have run a mile.
When I look back I’m glad I never listened to the well meaning people who said it wouldn’t work, that I shouldn’t get involved with someone so much older. Whatever happens, I will always be grateful that I took the risk. No one knows what will happen next, so I am all for enjoying life while you can. Sometimes you have to listen to your heart, take a chance in life and run with it.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Wind Instruments

The ballet was excellent – BRB performing three shorts: a short Russian ballet, then several couples dancing to a selection of Frank Sinatra’s songs, then Daphnis and Chloe, an entire ballet that was vibrant and exciting. All the costumes were wonderful, the audience was very enthusiastic, and I brought a programme back for my 80 year old dogwalking friend Betty, who is a great ballet fan.

However, after a very long journey up there due to roadworks everywhere, I was in the mood for unwinding when we got to Plymouth. Hah! I’d forgotten how horrendous cities are – all those people jostling and shouting, cars tooting and screeching, shoppers dropping fish and chips, pasties, fag ends on the pavement. A team of Hari Krishna (sp) monks chanting and clapping. And me and Moll scurrying along, trying to dodge them all while Himself did his round of the music shops.

Himself is in his element because he’s bought himself another cornet, would you believe. This one is silver plated (he’s allergic to silver) and has a large dent in it.

‘But I got it for sixty quid, Pop. That’s a bargain,’ he said proudly.

‘SIXTY QUID!’ I cried.

‘But it’s a Besson, Pop,’ he insisted.

It was on the tip of my tongue to say’ ‘It’s a Con,’ but as I’d been reminded that I know nothing about musical instruments, I kept my mouth shut. Just.

So he is now the proud owner of two cornets and about ten mouthpieces. He has great plans for this new cornet, which will include de-silvering it and bashing the dent out with his brother’s help (they have all the equipment up at the workshop so this will be another challenge). In the meantime, he spent our time at my mum’s taking it out of its box and stroking it lovingly.

Also on the subject of wind, I met a lady in the toilets at the theatre who told me she had Crohns Disease. She was bent double and belching very loudly – as in VERY loudly.

‘I feel awful,’ she said, a plump lady in a loose white sweater. ‘My daughter wanted to take me out to lunch so we went to Dingles but if I don’t eat in time, my stomach plays up and the food took ages and it was too late for me, so I’m in agony.’ She paused for another very painful sounding expellation of air. ‘I shouldn’t be here, really, I should be in bed but I didn’t want to disappoint my daughter.’

Poor lady – what do you say? I gave her a hug and left to go back to my seat, very glad that I’m not stricken with that horrible disease.

And lastly on the subject of wind, Himself has a few problems in that direction due to his cancer treatment. He usually tries to get rid of it while walking the dog in the morning (which means timing it for when we’re not walking past other dog walkers). This morning, however, it sounded like a trapped mouse that had been sat on for a week.

For some reason, this reduced us both to hysterics. What is it with the English and farts?

Saturday, 27 October 2007

The writing cafe

This will be brief as we’re off to Plymouth where I am going to the ballet with my mum, and Himself and Moll will tour the music shops searching for the Ideal Mouthpiece for his cornet. We’re then spending the night with my mum in Devon and coming back via Fowey so we’re having a weekend away.

But first of all – about the writing café.

We went, RT and I, after our meeting, and found a small café with the door open (it wasn’t overly warm outside) and a long bench type table in the window covered in newspapers and books. At the far end was someone carefully placing what looked like black plasticine cats on luridly coloured cakes – for Halloween, I presumed.

She greeted us and continued attending to the cakes while we looked around. A blackboard advertising the cakes of the day (numerous) and an Italian coffee machine, about six tables and chairs and a slow cooker bubbling away in the background. Books and papers scattered over various table tops. Comfortable, tables and chairs clean. (Though I did see a nasty damp patch coming in through her ceiling which she should have looked at. I thought of volunteering Himself’s services but didn’t think it quite the time.)

The cakes were piled on top of a worktop and just about all were chocolate, and those that weren’t were covered in thick layers of icing. A red light danger zone for someone with my metabolism.

RT ordered tea and a piece of chocolate truffle or something cake.
‘What kind of tea?’ said Patricia, and rattled off about 280 different choices.
‘Er – ordinary please,’ said RT.

We sat down and she presented us with copies of her children’s books and I said I’d ordered one from the library.

‘If you knew how I dread those words,’ she cried. ‘You do realise that if you get books from the library, I don’t get a penny? It’s only about six pounds on Amazon.’

‘Yes, but six pounds is quite a lot of money,’ I said, thinking what about PLR?

That went down like a lead balloon and RT and I exchanged glances. It was one of those times when you’re very glad to have a friend with you.

However, my coffee was fine even if RT’s cake wasn’t. Every time we talked about something, our host either joined in the conversation, or said something like, ‘what sort or organs do you think I should put on my cake? Something with blood dripping out of them?’

We weren’t sure whether she was addressing this comment to us, to the passers by or her son who appeared and drifted off, like a lost soul.

We ended up having a very useful talk about writing, though, and she did volunteer her services if we wanted to drop in one Saturday. She said she’s happy to look through first few chapters and synopsis of a novel so that could be very handy. She also gave RT some good advice about Not Giving Up the first draft.

So all in all, it was an interesting experience. She might well end up in a novel one day.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Cancer and Books

This was to be about books, but Himself has just had his PSA test results back and his level has gone down from 20+ to 5.6 in six weeks which is brilliant news. (Down is good, means the cancer has shrunk.) So we shall celebrate tonight!

And now on to what I was going to blog about - books that I like – and don’t.

I don’t tend to buy books, I tend to order them from the library, but I notice the title (which I promptly forget) and then look at the blurb on the back, then the first page. I also look at the typeface because I can’t stand a small typeface – not good for the eyes at my age.

I read depending on my mood, also. I started reading Lionel Shriver’s We must talk about Kevin (or whatever it was called) but it was when Himself had just been diagnosed with cancer and I couldn’t handle anything heavy then.

I don’t like thrillers because I get too nervous and can’t sleep afterwards, but having said that I plucked from the library shelves yesterday Meeting Point by Roisin McAuley which is a really good, fast paced murder mystery which I’m really enjoying.

I prefer not to read hardbacks, because they’re difficult to read in bed which is where I do most of my reading.

I tend to read mostly women and a lot of American and Canadian writers. Irish, too. (What does that say about me?!)

Being about to hit 50 (next year), books about 30 somethings trying to find Mr Right have rather lost their appeal. I loved Bridget Jones but I tend to avoid books with bright pink covers and young things that like shopping. (I’m allergic to shopping so that doesn’t have any appeal either.)

Humour is very difficult, I find, but I loved Jenny Cruisie’s books or the ones that I’ve read so far. Of course she’s another dog lover which I have to say goes a long way in my book (sorry).

So come on, what do you like?

(By the way, RT and I are hoping to have part of our writing meeting this morning in the writing cafe in Penryn if Himself gets back with the car. Will report back if we do.)

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Dr Gray and Writing, writing, writing

I feel cheered by the visit to Dr Gray. I don’t want to bore you lot, but basically last weekend’s catastrophe was a sort of flush through and from now on she hopes everything will settle down. If not, and I continue to have problems, she will put me on something that will stop my cycle altogether.

So I’m happy to do what she suggests, which is wait and see. I’d rather not take anything if I don’t have to, and I have her phone number so I can get hold of her when I need to.

I’ve also possibly got some work out of this. She works for a charity called Women’s Health Concern (for some reason blogger won’t let me embed links which is a nuisance) which is for anyone with menopausal or gynae problems. They are looking for people to write for them and I’ve thrown myself in at the deep end. What do I know about adenomyosis? Not a lot except that I’ve got it. So I’m now on a Steep Learning Curve.

Unlike most subjects, there is very little on this topic on the internet or in the medical press so muggins here is scratching around desperately trying to make sense of what has happened to me so far. For someone who never passed a science exam in their life and failed Biology O Level twice, I sure have landed myself in it. My poor spongy brain is flapping and struggling in a quagmire of medical terminology. But I'm intending to make as much sense of it before I ring one of the medical experts to ask for additional information.

Still, at least I will learn something from it and with a bit of luck, the information can help other people with a similar problem. That’s what I’m telling myself as I sit here panicking, awaiting a phone call from WHC to discuss what I’m going to write.

Look on the bright side. Following a self imposed, crash course in adenomyosis yesterday I already know twice what I did on Tuesday. Admittedly that's not saying a lot, but it's a start.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Agility and Plumbing Problems

This is Mollie's belated second birthday present. Agility classes start on Saturday week (the day after Himself's birthday, dear of him).

Being very anti-exercise, he was horrified that anyone, even a dog, would want to expend unnecessary energy in this fashion.

"All that running and jumping, Pop. You'll wear her out!"

I pointed out that with a hyperactive dog like her (to say nothing of a hyperactive Mum like me) this is highly desirable. But it took a long time before I could reassure him that I'm sure Moll will absolutely love it. He has yet to be convinced but is coming along as Official Photographer.

Now I must dash. I've been researching adenomyosis until my brain thinks it's going to crash prior to seeing Dr G to discuss my Plumbing Problems. My appointment is late morning so hope to have some good news. Dammit - I'll make sure I have good news!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

The magic of Flying

"For once man has tasted flight he will forever walk the earth
with eyes turned skywards.
For there he has been and there he longs to return."
Leonardo Da Vinci

A few days ago we were driving along the sea front, looking at the other dogs on the beach and the considerable surf (rare on this south coast of Cornwall) when suddenly I said – ‘Look!’

There in front of us was a huge balloon that turned out to be a paraglider. It rose up against the cliffs, then drifted out to sea and along the beach before rising up again.

What I hadn’t realised was that the large wing or balloon is controlled by a person sitting in a harness, using myriad of rainbow coloured threads, like a magical spider’s web. The paraglider monitored the strings with his hands, thereby moving himself up and down, to the side or out over the water, and twisted his whole body from side to side as he did so, like a motorcyclist going round a bend.

Watching him manoeuvre was awe inspiring. We stood and watched his skill and dexterity in silence as he careered near the cliff, then bounced off at the last moment.

Himself finally tore himself away and said, “that’s got to be the best thing ever. A mix between sailing and flying. If I was younger, I’d have a go.”

Thankfully (for my nerves), he’s too old. But he can still fly in his head, and his heart. And he does.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Striptease and Obesity

Remember that burlesque evening I mentioned last week? Well, the mystery is solved.

Cara Lester, a graduate from University College Falmouth invited the public to see her photography prints at a Candid Masquerade evening in the Toast bar. Cara likes to celebrate the beauty of curvaceous women through her pictures, focusing on striptease.

On the night of her photography exhibition, the bar was turned into a Moulin Rouge style rendezvous. (Remember that black stage with plastic rose petals?) The highlight of the evening was Ophelia Bitz, a London burlesque star, who entertained the audience with “comical songs and hands-free cocktail shaking” (the mind boggles). She must have been the one with the floor sweeping eyelashes.

Dressed in suspenders and heels with a gold glitter basque, Cara said “I was so nervous about the turnout. But I needn’t have worried. I can’t believe how many people came and they wall went to so much effort with their costumes.”

Er – what costumes? I thought it was striptease?

And also to do with Body Issues, is the news today that some schools are to write to parents to tell them that their children are obese. his presumes that the parents don’t actually know, I suppose. Or that they’re obese themselves. (I was going to add the picture from the BBC website but it makes me feel sick.)

To me, as an ignorant non-parent, surely all this has to start with the parents anyway? How on earth can a child be expected to eat well if the parents don’t?

There is so much information out there – now everything you buy from a supermarket has the fat, salt and sugar content plastered all over it. Why are these parents so ignorant? Or are they just stupid?

Go on, shoot me down!

Saturday, 20 October 2007

A Wash Out

I’m furious. I could kill the person who invented hormones and if Treliske hadn’t just been rated the worst hospital in the country, I would be demanding a hysterectomy on Monday.

We’ve had to cancel a) the meal and b) the visit to the writing café as I am bent double with violent cramps. Not conducive to talking, let alone gregarious behaviour.

Himself came back yesterday evening, took one look at me and said, ‘What’s the matter?’

When I told him he swore, kicked a few things (he feels very helpless in the face of hormonal pain, as do I) and said, ‘right we’re cancelling the meal. No point in having it if you’re feeling like this.’

I had thought that I might feel better with a bit of company, but having talked to a friend on the phone last night for ten minutes, I was exhausted. So a quiet weekend with a hot water bottle is in store.

Of course we now have a fridge groaning with food and no one to eat it. I’m shoving as much as I can in the freezer but it seems to be full of other stuff which I don’t want to throw away. One of the other friends coming also has a laden fridge as her visitors for the weekend have just cancelled - and we can't even feed each other as we both got lamb...

Luckily I am seeing Dr Grey on Wednesday. I shall tell her about this and am tempted to give her our huge Asda bill. I also want a refund on Wasted Days.

Thank you, I feel better now.

We did take James out for coffee but I wasn't very good company. Himself took James back up to his room afterwards and James said, 'I hope she feels better soon. And tell her - I'm a great admirer.'

Oh God, I'm going to cry. Bloody hormones.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Sleepless nights and hungry guests

I feel shopwrecked and grainy eyed this morning. This was due to a) four hours sleep last night and b) having to brave Asda early this morning. Not an experience I care to repeat.

The lack of sleep was caused by a sudden whir of activity on the article selling front which made my brain spin so I couldn’t sleep. Luckily Himself was busy composing jazz in his head so he wasn’t sleeping either. What a pair…. So we walked Moll early and got to Asda for 8.30am.

The reason for this horrendous shopping expedition is that tomorrow we are having seven people round for a meal; an occasion that takes place about once a year in this house. I am banned from the kitchen 'because you never cook enough, Pop.’

Lucky me. Then I realised that we don't have enough chairs, cutlery or plates, so I'm going to have to borrow the necessary.

Out of the seven people, five are female. Luckily the two men are Julian, who’s gay and enjoys women’s company so he won’t mind a plethora of women, and Himself who isn’t gay but doesn’t mind either. (At least, I haven't heard from Julian who was last heard of in Spain. If he can't make it, Himself will be the Token Man, a position he will no doubt relish.)

At some point tomorrow Himself will groan and say, ‘Why have we spent so much time and money when we don’t like entertaining?’ Then we all have enough to drink, the guests usually stay for ages, and we have another successful evening. We hope.

I can hear crashings and bangings from the kitchen which means the chef has started creating. I shall stay well out of the way, comforted by the sweet scent of basil drifting down the hall.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Writing cafe in Cornwall

Good news for writers in Cornwall, particularly in the Falmouth area. The well known writer, Patricia Finney, has set up a café in Penryn called Words.

Patricia is well known for her historical crime novels set mainly in the Elizabethan era and her children’s books about a very stupid Labrador called Jack and his adventures in the human world.

On Saturdays Patricia is to hold creative writing clinics between 11-3 every Saturday, where writers can turn up, pay £5 and receive a consultation with a writer who’s been a published novelist for 30 years and worked as a freelance journalist and sub-editor.

“I’ve always loved hanging around in coffee shops, drinking good coffee and eating cakes,” Patricia said, “and have written several of my books in them. So I decided to become a coffee shop entrepreneur myself and open the kind of place where I would like to sit and write.”

In fact, she’s offering a unique service. “Bring me your problems and I bet I can solve them.”

Sounds too good to be true.

You know we always take our elderly friend James out for coffee on Saturdays? I know exactly where we’ll go this time.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Eccentric Accessories

"The most futile thing in this world is any attempt, perhaps, at exact
definition of character. All individuals are a bundle of contradictions --
none more so than the most capable."
Theodore Dreiser, author (1871-1945)

Thank you, Shelagh, for that apt quote, particularly as it fits in perfectly with your little brother -

Himself is now into Accessories – of the jazz kind of course.

‘I need a bag to put my trumpet in,’ he declared (this was several instruments ago, if you’ll pardon the expression) and it didn’t have a case, and despite the fact that he was a long way from playing in public, he had to buy a bag - from the market in Falmouth.

That was too small so he bought another one from Trago (cheap store here in South West). That was also the wrong shape and he saw this flight bag in Tesco and said, ‘this is just what I want, Pop’. Which was what he’d said about the other two.

Then, in search of perfection, he sold that trumpet and bought another cornet (you can see a pattern emerging here) and now this cornet has a case that came with it. But instead of not using the new flight bag, which he’s obviously rather taken with, he takes that down to the jazz sessions. Inside it, on Sunday, was a small notepad and biro for making notes about any numbers he didn’t know, and – a cheese sandwich. Very professional.

His accessories cause me a certain amount of amusement, not least the latest.

‘Look,’ he said, showing me tiny address book he’d just bought. (This is also destined for The Flight Bag). ‘It’s got all the musicians’ numbers that I need.’

He opened it at a page with my mother’s phone number on which slightly mystified me. Is my mother a mean trombonist, unknown to her children? Does she scurry from the wilds of Devon down to darkest Cornwall, don dark glasses and smoke a pipe and become a tromboning jazz mystery?

‘Why have you got Mum’s number?’ I said, just to clarify things.

‘Because I can never remember it, and I might want to ring her and tell her something,’ he said. I can’t see that happening, but it was a good answer.

As you can see, he is Dead Keen about jazz now and the phone is hot with arrangements for rehearsal sessions, making a practice tape, the next jazz session. But with music there are always problems, the latest one being the wrong mouthpiece.

While I am always keen to encourage his musical talents, sometimes it gets a bit much. Last night, when I was trying to read, he was lying in bed playing both mouthpieces. The ones belonging to the cornet, I hasten to add.

Fancy a house swap, anyone?

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Award and meme

This is from Akelamalu - for which much thanks, Ak. This award is "for those that have a generous and giving nature. Those who care about others. Those who have a kind word to say or a broad shoulder to lean on in the times that others need that. Those who display the "Spirit of Christmas"."

This is ironic given that Christmas is my least favourite time of year but that has nothing to do with loving and giving. That is another Long Story.

The Meme is as follows:-

4 Jobs I've had:-

Accommodation Officer

4 Movies I like to watch

Shawshank Redemption
Pretty woman
As Good as it Gets
Bridget Jones the first one

4 places I've lived


4 favourite foods
Peanut butter
Crunchy salad with french dressing
Home made soup

4 places I would rather be

I wouldn't. Even though it's grey and drizzly.
I'm sticking right here in Cornwall.

Monday, 15 October 2007

The 51 Club

From down the hall, in the kitchen, comes the banjo beat of Himself’s jazz tape.
He is totally enthused now, having had a good jamming session last Wednesday, and a visit to hear another New Orleans Jazz band yesterday down at the pub in Hayle.

You walk into the Smugglers and it’s like stepping into a time warp. A secret club. This is the 51 Club, which has been running for over 30 years by New Orleans jazz enthusiasts for like minded people. They have a raffle every week and you pay £3 towards the cost of hiring a different band every week.

As we walked in, we were greeted effusively by everyone, the average age range being late sixties/seventy. It was like walking into a big family party and Mollie was clucked and fussed over. Everyone was smiling, tapping their feet to the thrum thrum of the drums, nodding their heads to the cry of the clarinet.

Behind Himself was a table of regulars (mind you, they’re mostly regulars). A lady in her 80s at a guess, with permed and sprayed hair. She sat, evidently dressed in her best, sipping a tonic water with a straw, a vacant smile on her face. At her feet was a Yorkshire Terrier, only his face visible as he stared out at the crowds with chocolate eyes. At the end of their table was a man eating crisps who must have been at least 90, in a pale blue suit. He waved his arms around as he listened, enjoying himself with the enthusiasm of a child. It was touching to see.

When Viv and I came back, after our walk, it was nearly three hours later and the band was nearly wrapped up. The stage started filling up for the last number, and this elderly audience got to their feet. Viv and I waited, expecting a slow waltz or something similar.

Nota bit of it. They started jiving, and we were amazed by their dexterity, by the way their experienced feet twinkled in and out, by the neat turns and twists. By their smiling, panting faces, joined together in a shared love of racy music and the freedom of dance.

The 51 club is truly an experience.

Saturday, 13 October 2007


We’ve just taken the elderly James shopping in Asda. This store isn’t much of a treat for us, but James was quite bright eyed and chirpy at the thought of it.

There was a dodgy moment when he nearly lost his trousers in Asda car park, but we rescued them by hitching his belt up another few notches, and James hobbled cheerfully off with Himself while I attended to other things.

It wasn’t till we got home and unpacked things that I realised Himself had got a curious assortment of things:
Granny Smiths instead of Bramleys.
Powder washing powder instead of liquid.
No fruit. (I don’t count Granny Smiths)
No washing up liquid.
No water.

I could go on but I won’t.

James bought
a stapler and box of staples.
A packet of Ginger Nuts.
Packet of shortbread.
A packet of plastic plates. (???)
A packet of plastic spoons (???)
and a packet of plastic knives. Again, ?????

Anyway he seemed pleased with his purchases and took them proudly back to his room where I loaded up his stapler and we had a lesson in How To Staple things. When I put it away for him, in his stationery pile, I noticed – yes, you’ve got it. Another stapler, plus packet of staples.

The last time we got him a hole punch, he couldn’t get the hang of it at all, and rang several times over the weekend to ask how to work it. Poor fellow still can’t do it, so saves things up for when we got there.

I’m just waiting for the Staple phone call.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Eddie and the Tax Man

Yesterday was a day of intense highs and crashing lows.

The bad news came from the Inland Revenue. Quite how they can charge me so much tax when my income is so little is beyond me so I’m going off to have a chat with Nick The Tax Man. However, I’ve decided there’s no point in getting upset about the Inland Revenue. They are an unnecessary evil and life is too short.

However, the high yesterday came from a report back from my last assignment on a column I’d written and a book review. My tutor was extremely complimentary and said he’d have no hesitation in hiring me if he was an editor. He's not, of course, but it cheered me immensely as you can imagine.

As I’m off to work on my last cruise turnaround of the year in a minute, I leave you with a picture of Eddie, who has recently come to live with my friend Sue in Sussex. Sue already has a dog called Freddie, but apparently this hasn’t caused the problems that it might have, and Eddie is already a much loved member of the family.

He looks very fetching, I think, and should be used in an ad campaign for Weightwatchers or Slimming World. How could you not love such a character?

Thursday, 11 October 2007


I like knickers bursting with colour and pattern. I like them cheap. And I like a certain shape – I’m very particular about that. I usually get them from Peacocks and when they fall apart, or the elastic goes, which is usually when I’m sick of them anyway, I go and get another packet, at the princely cost of a couple of quid.

But last week, having decided it was time for a new packet, could I find any?

I went to Peacocks (sold out), Tesco in Helston (no adults knickers), Asda (no cotton ones), then tried I don’t know how many other stores. All I wanted was a packet of colourful, patterned, cotton knickers. In the right style, of course, and now all the styles seem to have changed so I couldn’t remember what I usually bought.

I was met with a bewildering array of thongs. (No thanks.) Full briefs (ditto). Hi legs, shorts, mini bikinis, micro mesh, black ones, white ones, lacy ones, all in a variety of styles that I didn’t want. Since when have knickers got so bloody complicated?

Himself came with me on the last leg (sorry), as it was after my session with Dr Grey last week. Bless him, he had no idea.

‘Look at these, Pop.’ Peering at white, Bridget Jones knickers.

‘No thanks.’

‘Pop – what about these?’ Size 18 black ones.

‘No thanks.’ Pause while I try to think of how to get the message across tactfully. ‘I know what I WANT,’ I said.

It worked. I dragged him out of the shop and into M&S in Truro where they have a whole floor devoted to lingerie. Confusing or what. Himself wandered round looking as if he was shellshocked. I have to say, their knickers are above my usual price range, but I found a dog eared M&S voucher worth £6 in the bottom of my rucksack and thought – Bingo!

After about half an hour of searching, I am now the proud owner of £6 worth of M&S knickers. A variety pack including black and white polka dots and pink and black swirls. The lingerie equivalent of pick ‘n mix.

Well, it does it for me.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007


Burlesque - try it - the word rolls out like a long red carpet, rich and majestic.
A lovely sounding word I think that sounds much better than stripper. Much more mysterious.

The other night, when I didn’t go to see Atonement, we met in a bar called Toast near the arts centre where the film was being shown. In a corner of the room was a small built up stage covered in black cloth and strewn with fake red rose petals.

‘What the hell’s that for?’ I asked, innocent that I am.

‘It’s a Burlesque night,’ I was told.

Consulting with the others, we weren’t quite what burlesque involved but thought that it meant striptease, maybe the odd bawdy song.

After a few minutes someone came in wearing a bright red jacket, belted tight around her waist. Her hair (I think it was a her) was dyed blonde, in a ponytail, and from the rear view I could see shapely legs in black stockings with seams up the back, and six inch high heeled black shoes.

When she turned round – well, you could have swept the floor with her eyelashes. I was quite riveted. And then she disappeared. And shortly after that we had to go.

I told Himself about this and he smiled, his mind evidently on other things. ‘I’m sure it was a good night,’ he said. ‘Nothing like a bit of singing and dancing.’

I looked at him, amazed at what he’d just said. ‘I don’t think there’s much singing and dancing,’ I said, and stared at him.

He looked at me then and obviously clicked. ‘Oh - perhaps we ought to go and have a look,’ he said.

So that’s our entertainment for next week then.

And now for a quote that has absolutely nothing to do with the above but I’ve just been sent it. Goes along with what I was saying yesterday about friends.

Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person,
having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all
right out, just as they are -- chaff and grain together -- certain that a
faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with
the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

George Eliot (pen name of Mary Ann Evans), novelist (1819-1880)

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Three Good Things

I went over to Lady Thinker’s blog this morning and read about her three good things which instantly made me feel better. (It’s a grey old damp morning here in Cornwall.) So I thought I’d note down the first three good things I could think of.

1. My friends. We went out last night but because of these vile drugs I’m on, I felt so weepy I had to come home without seeing the film that I’d been looking forward to seeing for weeks. (Atonement – anyone seen it?) My friends were wonderful – hugged me, kissed me, offered to walk me home and miss the film themselves. I said no, of course, but you can’t get better friends than that.

I'm adding a PS here having spoken to Nik, one of the friends who DID see Atonement last night. Apparently the female lead has been dubbed IKEA Knightly. This cheered me greatly. But then I can be such a bitch.

2. My knickers. Today I’m wearing black and white polka dots, cotton and new. My spirits lift every time I think of them. They are fun and frivolous, and there will be more on these in another post.

3. The sea. Yesterday I took Mollie for a very slow walk (everything’s slowed down at the moment). There’s something so special about the slanting light of October, and we sat on the cliff top among the brackish smell of bracken and counted five yachts and three tankers in the bay. The sea was dark blue and turquoise, the waves crashing and thundering on the rocks below. When we got down to the beach, I could smell the ozone freshness, taste the salt on my lips. All around me was a wonderful sense of space, a stillness in the rawness of nature that made me feel whole again.

What are your three good things?

Monday, 8 October 2007

Awards and Special Friends

Last week the rotten correspondent very kindly awarded me the Breaking Blogger award. Apologies for not mentioning this earlier but my mind – er, well entire body, brain and hormones – were rather taken up with other matters.

So a sincere thank you to Correspondent – this has boosted my morale greatly and cheered a very grey damp morning here in Cornwall. I will pass it on when I’ve got brain cells into thinking about such difficult subjects.

I told you we had friends for the night on Friday. I met John when I lived in Devon and he used to make rocking horses – very beautiful ones that sold all over the world. His wife, Annie, is a very talented painter, they’re both on their second marriages and, in their late fifties/early sixties, clearly devoted to each other.

John has an inquisitive intelligence, loves animals, children and adores boats, spending as much time as he can on the river Dart.

He took Himself for a day on the boat and they had a real Swallows and Amazons day – building fires, cooking food and meeting all the other people that live on the river. Himself said everywhere they went, John was welcomed with open arms; rightly, he has friends everywhere.

In the bottom of his boat he keeps a clutch of carrier bags. These are to pick up other people’s rubbish. Last Christmas (they aren’t religious) they took brandy and mince pies down to the Coastguards then went for a sail. He’s always on hand to help people, particularly the elderly, and said to my mum that she was to ring him, ‘any time of day or night, it doesn’t matter.’ And he means it.

On Friday we were talking about Life, as you do, and John said, ‘I think you should go your own way in life and help other people if you can.’

I can’t help thinking that politicians could learn a lot from such thoughtful values. What a simple premise for life, and how effective.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Visitors and Lying

We took James out for coffee this morning and as we took him home he insisted on giving us a bakewell tart that he didn’t want. (I can’t stand the stuff but Himself likes it so we accepted gratefully.)

James stood in his room, waving his arms (it seems to help him think). ‘I just want you to know,’ he said, ‘that I am very – very grateful – about you.’ He stopped and smiled. ‘Have I got that right?’

‘Yes,’ I said with a grin. Well, you could see what he was getting at.

‘And it’s like a – you know – er- thingy – to go out with you two.’

‘Good.’ What thingy, I wondered?

‘A lifeline!’ he shouted triumphantly.

I have to say I’d been feeling very tired this morning and hadn’t really felt like more people. But that made it all worthwhile.

Last night some friends, who’d been staying in Porthleven, arrived to stay for the night. To my relief, I found that at least a few brain cells were starting to work yesterday (ie I managed to write a bit for the first time in days) but made the great mistake of looking in the mirror shortly before John and Annie arrived. Not a pretty sight.

I went into the kitchen where Himself was preparing enough food for 40 people instead of 4 and said, ‘I’ve gone all grey.’

He didn’t look up from peeling the spuds. ‘I’m grey all over,’ he said. ‘Don’t worry about it.’

‘Not my hair!’ I cried. ‘My face.’

He looked at me and his face softened. He gave me a hug. Then he said those three fatal words.

‘Never mind, darling.’

I must give him more lessons in Lying When Necessary.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Beach hut memories

Last week a London based businessman paid £91,000 for a beach hut on Teignmouth beach. For those of you who have travelled down to Cornwall by train, Teignmouth is the bit with a large, red cliff that sticks out, known as The Ness. It has a few pine trees on top, like tufts of hair. I know it well, for I was brought up there.

I used to have ballet classes in one of those beach huts, and they’re tiny. There was room for a barre, a mirror, our ballet teacher and three small girls to jig around in and that was about it, so what someone is planning to do with it baffles me. As I remember there isn’t a window either, or if there is it’s of postbox dimensions.

However, the situation is superb. This row of beach huts overlook the village of Shaldon opposite and Teignmouth docks round to the right. Just outside the beach huts a tiny passenger ferry trundles back and forth, linking Shaldon with its busier sibling. A long, beautiful iron bridge spans the river Teign, linking Shaldon with the rest of the world, and in the distance the estuary winds its way up to Newton Abbot.

I arrived at this idyllic spot as an 18 month old baby. We rented a cottage in Shaldon which was apparently damp but picturesque, and my parents made lifelong friends with the couple next door. Mum had had a bad time with me as I’d been very ill at birth (in London) and we were both closeted in Intensive Care for months, so coming down to Shaldon must have been like a sigh of relief.

Not used to babies – I’m the oldest – Mum was naturally nervous, but help was at hand. An elderly fellow used to run the passenger ferry which trundles back and forth, taking kids to school, people shopping, tourists and walkers to and from the beaches.

One day when Mum was at her wits end with a screaming me, the ferry man said gently to her, ‘Ere, love. You give Curly to me. I’ll look after her – you have some time to yourself.’ (In a broad Devon accent.)

A red eyed Mum handed over her baby and, with several backward glances, went off with her friend for a few hours. Apparently I slept, woke and gurgled, and slept again. Life on the ocean wave, that was for me.

So ever after that, whenever Mum needed a break, she’d hand over her daughter to the ferryman who delighted in his tiny, curly haired passenger.

What a shame that nowadays he’d be branded a paedophile, and I’d be taken away by Social Services, my mother reprimanded for being incapable, neglectful, at fault.

I wish I could remember back that far. I bet I delighted in the attention, in the gentle lapping of the waves, the cry of the gulls overhead. The shouts of the other boatmen, the swish of the tide running fast, the steady chug of the engine, the deep satisfying rumble of the boatman's voice. What better start to life?

I hope that whoever bought this beach hut – which is a piece of history, after all – will treat it as a place for quiet contemplation. I hope they will walk outside, sniff the autumn air and clamber aboard the little ferry. They will watch the water eddying around them, see the beach huts recede and the Shaldon boats beckon. On a quiet day, you can hear the happy gurgle of a child.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Pop with her Pop

Photograph reproduced in blog friendly format courtesy of Breadbox so many thanks to her.

My mother sent this to me, with the caption, 'Flowerpot writing her first novel'.
As my youngest brother kindly pointed out, I'm actually taking a camera apart, but never mind. Artistic licence and all that.

It's a lovely day here and Himself has insisted on taking me off for the morning as I seem to be having delayed reactions to the traumas of the last few days. Trust me to overeact. See you all tomorrow.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

A Momentous Day

I was introduced to Dr Sarah Grey by a dear friend of mine, Carole, to whom I am everlastingly grateful. Carole, here are the details as requested.

We’re (nearly) all women here, so men – look away. Alternatively, file it for future reference when your wife/girlfriend is weeping over the dinner for no accountable reason.

I have adenomyosis, a condition that means as I get older my periods are increasingly painful. As in chronic cramps. Last week they were so bad I couldn’t speak (brief interlude of bliss for Himself) and had to cancel two writing meetings. Unheard of. My GP has tried various solutions, I’ve had scans galore and seen a gynaecologist but nothing worked so the alternative was to have a coil fitted under general anaesthetic (I’ve had two GPs try and fail: my cervix is too narrow) or a hysterectomy.

Then Carole told me about Dr Grey who is a specialist in women’s health. Music to my ears, I can tell you. I got a referral to see her in a month’s time but last week, by Friday, I was reduced to a weeping, cramping hormonal wreck. I rang Dr Grey who said she could see me privately on Monday. At a cost. By that time, frankly, I would have sold the house, and Himself was getting increasingly worried about his doubled up wife.

The dear lady did say that if my GP would write me a prescription for a coil, that would save me £100. Luckily my GP is lovely and she did. So at 9am yesterday I went to the chemist to pick it up. They couldn’t find it. Great, I thought. Finally, she said cheerfully, ‘Oh I didn’t realise it was on the Top Shelf,’ and handed me a large item in a carrier bag.

I looked inside and saw a two foot long cardboard box.
I thought, Oh My God, and my insides sort of slid away in terror. Brave faced, I returned to the car with a smile. ‘Guess what? I didn’t have to pay!’ I said.

Himself looked at the package and went white. I looked at the package and felt sick.

‘I expect there’s a prodder in there,’ I said faintly.

Himself went even whiter, if that was possible, and started the car engine. We drove home in silence.

Thankfully that was the worst bit. Dr Grey was kind, compassionate and watched me carefully, assessing me as she tapped details into her laptop. She’s clever, thoughtful and sincere and explained all my options, adding, ‘surgery is the very Last Resort.’ Further music to my ears.

The procedure itself was painless and quick. (I won’t got into details, you’ll be glad to hear.) She fitted it without a problem and later, she smiled and said, ‘I can hear the relief in your voice.’

Relief? I nearly burst into tears and hugged her. But I didn’t. People tend to get embarrassed at my ability to blub at a second’s notice. She then went on to explain how she will now look after me and my problematical womb on the NHS right through the menopause and whatever else ensues.

I did cry then. Just a little leakage. I couldn’t help it. Himself did too when I told him. What a relief to find someone like Dr Grey. My Angel Gabriel – er no, wrong sex. My Joan of Arc. Or something. Whatever, the prospect of actually getting through each month without having to write off several days in crippling agony is wonderful to imagine.

So if any of you out there are suffering, there are plenty of avenues to try. Ask for a referral. Ask some more. Make a nuisance of yourself. It’s worth it.

When we finally got home we had a phone call from the girls asking if we’d like to come over for a drink and see their wedding album which had just arrived.

We were so chuffed to be invited and went over for an hour to catch up, have a glass of wine and pore over the photos which are wonderful.

All in all, a momentous day.

Monday, 1 October 2007

A new Arrival

‘He’s called Henry James, Pop.’

‘Who?’ Henry James? What the hell was he talking about? I was thinking Literary, as you would.

‘He was born last night. Six pounds – er – something. By Caesarian.’

‘Oh, you mean the baby!’ Himself’s nephew and his wife were expecting their first baby last Friday so we’ve all been a bit anxious (this is their first).

‘What else did Pete say?’ I asked, wanting to know a few more details – as you would.

‘Oh – he said that Daniel was shattered.’

The husband? What about the wife? But we’re talking about a man here – what can you expect?

‘Has Shelagh been told?’ I asked. (My sister in law in Vermont.)

‘Oh yes, Pete will have rung her. Or emailed.’ Himself frowned. ‘Probably.’

I knew what probably meant, so I emailed the expectant grand aunt (is she? I get rather confused on this sort of thing). Of course she hadn’t been told, but now she has, a beautiful hand knitted shawl is winging its way towards the new arrival. Lucky boy. I’m sure he’ll have more than enough of everything, but a hand knitted shawl by my SIL ( a professional knitter) will be something that will make him the envy of all.

Brothers, eh? Who’d have ‘em? But last night we raised a glass to young Henry.

And now I’m off to Truro to be poked and prodded Down There, as Himself says. Keep your fingers crossed.