Monday, 31 December 2007

Childhood Haunts

The above picture is back view of me and my mum on the cliffs above Godrevy, my mother’s favourite beach as a child. (She's the little one.) It’s a very long beach of fine golden sand studded with high cliffs and huge rocks jutting out of the sea and the entire situation is dominated by a lighthouse which in Mum’s youth was still running manually.

We had a gusty walk along the cliffs then headed down to the beach where the tide was on its way out, revealing deep rock pools of slated blue and grey, studded with ruby sea anemones and shy limpets.

‘I learnt to swim in that one,’ said Mum, shedding her 78 years of age and skipping along the beach like a young girl. ‘Let’s go and walk along the beach down there.’

After about an hour, we returned to the car with one glowing mother and one knackered husband. Even Moll and I were blown to pieces and happily tired.

As we made our way round to St Ives, the sun came out drenching the streets with unseasonable warmth. Outside the Sloop pub people sunned themselves, turning their faces to the sky in astonishment. We stood outside wondering whether to go for coffee, but my stomach was rumbling.

‘I need to eat soon,’ I said. I get all panicky when my blood sugar level is low.

My mother looked at me. ‘Come on,’ she said. ‘We’ll go and have an early lunch.’

So we found a café where we could sit outside with Mollie, and devoured bowls of garlicky fish soup (for me and mum) and garlic and cheese bread for Himself. (The sort that’s nice at the time but leaves you incapable of eating anything else for the rest of the day.)

With a stomach full of soup I was able to relax. We finished our coffee and strolled across the beach with the other dog walkers, marvelling at the clarift of the cobalt sky, at the dimpled ridges of the sand. You can see why painters come here – the sheer brilliance of the light is breathtaking.

My mother chuckled as we watched a black spaniel puppy chasing its tail. ‘I can always tell when you need to eat,’ she said.

‘How?’ I said. ‘Do I go all pale or what?’

‘No,’ she said. ‘You go all sort of blotchy and anxious looking.’

I had to laugh at that. Thanks, Mum.

So if ever I get to meet any of you, you’ll know if I need feeding….

Saturday, 29 December 2007

More animals

Another one of Bussie in his box which has nothing to do with this post, but I like it.

On Christmas Eve we met another dogwalking friend who lives down the road. Betty has an Old English Sheepdog called Annie and we were talking about Travelscope going bust (see earlier post). Betty is going on a cruise in February, though not with them, and hoped that would be risk free.

‘What about Annie?’ I said.

‘My son’s going to move into my flat,’ said Betty. ‘But he starts work at 6am so I need to find someone to walk Annie in the mornings.’

Before I could think, I’d opened my mouth and said – yes, you’ve guessed it – ‘We’ll do it.’ I then looked at Himself who said, ‘We come up to the castle every day, so it’s no problem to take Annie.’

Betty looked and sounded overwhelmed, dear of her, and the next day she asked if we’d come for a drink on Christmas Day and bring my mother too.

So at noon we set off down the road and had a very congenial hour with Betty drinking wine and eating home made sausage rolls (don’t get those in this house I can tell you).

Betty is over 80 and has tremendous spirit and energy. Annie, by contrast, is a real softie who can be naughty but was incredibly well behaved when we were there. She gets Betty up at 6.30 every morning and at 8am Betty and Annie leave the flat to meet friends every morning and walk round the castle for an hour.

She always greets us with a smile and a laugh, regardless of rain or shine, gales or snow.

I’m using Betty as my role model.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Post Christmas Blues

Here in Falmouth, on Christmas Day what used to be the Docks Choir assemble the far end of town at around 10.20, have a few pints and then set off through the town, stopping at various places to gather and sing. If you haven’t heard a Cornish male voice choir in action, they are incredible. No backing, just pure voices thoroughly enjoying themselves. It really brings tears to your eyes.

They continue through town, where over 1,000 people flocked to watch them, and end up on the Moor for a few pints and a pasty. The atmosphere is wonderful – the very best of Christmas with everyone watching out for old and new friends, all anticipating the holiday. And anticipation can be a wonderful thing.

Over the last few days we’ve seen friends, walked miles and watched some great stuff on TV – anyone else see Ballet Shoes? At Mum’s request, I taped it and we watched it twice…

She had a computer lesson with Himself before she left, and has promised to ring Chris to get her laptop up and running as soon as possible. Various friends of mine who know her are asking for her email address, so the pressure is on. (And contrary to what Himself thinks, she needs that.)

She was upset because she couldn’t find the copy of Ballet Shoes she had as a child, so as part of her lesson she’s just bought her first purchase on Amazon. Well, I bought it but she saw what to do. As a booklover, I can see her Amazon bill mounting up…..

She stayed five days – much longer than she usually is with us – but we’ve had a wonderful time. We don’t always get on so well, but this time just clicked. We had great weather, loads of walks and Himself cooked a lovely roast lamb dinner on Christmas Day in the evening.

After her lesson RT and ET came over to have a cup of tea. It’s RT’s birthday so HAPPY BIRTHDAY RT!

Mum left half an hour ago and while it will be good to have the place back to normal (she has to sleep on the sofa bed as this is a one bedroom flat), it will suddenly be too quiet and I shall feel bereft.

But the best thing was, we just had fun. And isn’t that what life should be about?

Thursday, 27 December 2007

A Feline Blog

This year Bussie decided to take over the box that the Christmas tree was stored in. As you can see, Mollie is wondering what the hell is going on…

Last year it was a lost girl on the Lizard who we rescued. She was lost, pissed and had broken up with her husband. Or so she said.

This year it was a cat hiding in the hedge at the end of our street. A passing shopper told us about it saying he’d noticed the cat there for several days and was worried; it was obviously ill.

We hurried along to look at it and noticed a swollen face: an abscess probably. As cats often crawl away when they’re ill, we said we’d keep an eye on it and bring it food.

Then we got back and tried to ring the RSPCA who were constantly engaged. I did think of the vet but didn’t really want to have to pay the vet’s bills as it wasn’t our cat. Then later, just before I was going to take mum to the crib service, I thought, well I’ll ring them and see what they suggest.

This was 2.30 on Christmas Eve. I rang the vet and explained that it was a stray (we’d tried other houses in the street and it didn’t belong to anyone) and the vet nurse who answered the phone said, ‘Oh that’s OK. Can you bring it in? We’ll treat him as a stray.’

So we managed to bundle him into a catbox and took him up to the vet – which is also an animal hospital. The poor fellow yowled a lot on the way there, but they took him in and I know he’ll be well looked after there.

So you see, there really is – or was – some Christmas spirit after all.

And on a similarly feline note, as I walked into town the other day I passed a fellow with terrible scratch marks all over his face.

Oh yeah, I thought. Been in a fight, eh? One too many in the pub? Too much festive spirit? Or wife/girlfriend pissed off – she should cut her nails, mate. Vicious, that.

As I drew nearer, a friend of his approached him and asked him how he’d got his scars. I slowed down to listen (as you do, it’s research, you understand, of a literary nature).

‘These?’ said the bloke, wincing as he brushed his face. ‘It was the cat.’

So there you go – how wrong can you be?

Monday, 24 December 2007

The Good News ...

The last few days have been chaotic which has meant no time to catch up on anyone’s blogs, let alone my own, but full of friends which has been lovely. Or rather, friends and shopping if I’m truthful.

The good news is that James is going to his daughter for Christmas – we took him out yesterday morning and he devoured his usual coffee and shortbread and tried to tell us about a dream he had last night. Something about losing his watch under the bed, but we couldn’t work out the rest of it. So we went to Tesco where he bought two packets of lurid looking sweets and a huge box of Ferrero Rocher. For him. So at least he’ll be happy over Christmas.

The bad news is that Travelscope has gone bust. This is the travel company I worked for as a cruise ship rep. Mind you, our shifts were cut so much this year that it won’t make much of a difference to my income but a) it was an interesting job and got me away from the computer, and b) I feel very sorry for not only the thousands of people who won’t now have holidays, but the staff who are faced with a pretty gloomy Christmas with large mortgages and no wages to look forward to.

However, I’ve just realised that I still have my Travelscope coat. This is pretty hideous but is waterproof and warm which is a great bonus when dog walking. Then I realised that I also have my Travelscope scarf and blouse. Things are looking up.

So the plan is to wait a few months and put my Travelscope clothing on ebay. Sell it for a fortune, of course. Sort out our financial problems.

Dream on Flowerpot. Go and have a glass of wine.

At this time of year I always remember talking to another writer friend of mine and asked how her festive occasion had gone.

She looked at me, took a large gulp of wine and said, ‘We had a very Polite Christmas.’

Here’s hoping yours is anything but.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Christmas Presents

Without wanting to cast gloom over the proceedings, it makes me think that Christmas is very much about other people, and how bad news always seems worse at this time of year.

Yesterday three of my friends had bad news.

One has been told she has osteoarthritis and is terrified that she is going to lose all mobility and end up in a wheelchair. I think this highly unlikely, because she’s very active, but she has been in pain for a long time and is to have a thorough examination at the beginning of January. But as you can imagine, it’s not done much to uplift her spirits.

The second came in a phone call from someone who hasn’t been happy with her husband for a while. Well, years. She has always worked her butt off, cleaning and cooking and doing all the shopping as well as working seven days a week (she’s self employed) while her husband does – well, nothing would cover it.

Their marriage is over which should make her feel better, but she feels it’s all her fault, and for some reason she’s the one leaving the family home and the cat. (She is going to work in America in January for 2 months which has some bearing on who looks after the cat.)

How sad though. To have tried so very hard at a marriage that obviously wasn’t working, and to feel that she’s failed. I do feel for her so much.

The third is from a dear mate who’s just discovered her father is very ill.

Happy Christmas, eh?

But on a brighter note, I doubt I will get any work done today. As my Christmas preparations are zilch, I’d better get a move on.

And I’m meeting another writer, Liz Fenwick, this morning for coffee. She’s a member of the RNA and of the Novel Racers, and spends part of her time in Dubai and nips back to Cornwall when she can. It’s always great to meet other writers and will be a good chance to indulge in writerly chat/gossip for an hour or so. Called networking, you know?

I also have to buy presents, decorate the house, walk the dog, have my hair cut, and meet friends in the pub.

Yesterday was the most beautiful afternoon and a friend and I took Mollie out on the Woodland Walk at Trelissick (see picture above - not mine but that's what it looks like). It was the first sunny day for what felt like weeks, and although the sun was low in the sky, it painted the woods a soft gold, the sky a palest Wedgewood blue, the sea a clear emerald green.

I got back to find a card from a friend saying, ‘thanks for wonderful walks and for invaluable friendship.’

I couldn’t get better presents than those two.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Phone Calls

Two recent phone calls, one at 6.20 this morning. As we don’t have a phone beside the bed, I struggled out from beneath the duvet, pulled on a shirt and got to the phone just as it stopped ringing.

I dialled 1571, heart thumping. Who’d died? Or was ill? Had something happened to Mum, or my brothers, my nephews or nieces? Who was ringing at this time of the morning?

It turned out to be someone sounding not entirely sober, saying that he wasn’t able to get to work this morning because of the weather.

I was so relieved that nothing untoward had happened that I fed the animals and snuggled back into bed for another half hour’s warmth. Hey ho. Happy Christmas and all that.

The other phone call was from elderly James last night, wanting to meet before Christmas. As we’re completely disorganised here, Saturday is set aside for shopping so that’s out, which leaves Sunday, when my mother is due to arrive. Then a thought struck me.

‘Are you going to your daughter for Christmas?’

‘Er – no.’ He sounded embarrassed by this. ‘I’m going to tiggle.’ Sigh. ‘You know. John – Tiggle.’ He giggled. ‘Can you translate that into English for me?’

I couldn’t, being momentarily defeated, and stunned that daughter isn’t having her own father for Christmas Day. I said I’d ring him back when I’d spoken to Himself who was out.

Himself was, like me, incensed that James wasn’t going to be with his daughter for Christmas Day so I rang back, said would he like to come here.

‘I’m not sure,’ he said. ‘I think I’m going to John. You know – no – what’s his name? Who are you?’

Having sorted out who I was, he calmed down and said he wasn’t sure what his daughter was expecting him to do. So he’s going to ring us when he knows.

If he’s not spending the time with her, I’m thinking of inviting his Canadian friend from the residential home. The one who's lost his sight. He's got a great sense of humour and is wonderful company. So that's me, Himself, my Mum, James and his mate. Hell, why not invite the whole home? We could have a party.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Paying for care

This morning I heard on our local news that Debbie Hirst, aged 56 from Carbis Bay, is being denied the breast cancer drug Avastin that could extend her life because it is not available on the NHS.

The news comes despite three cancer patients at Treliske already paying for Avastin privately. The reason, according to the government, is that guidelines have changed, meaning that co-payment (allowing patients to contribute towards NHS treatment) is against the values and principles of the NHS so it must be stopped.

Earlier this year our hygienist left our NHS dental surgery on maternity leave. Several months later I started having excruciating abscesses and toothache. I ended up having five teeth removed and was told that I’d lose the lot fairly soon because I had bad gums. I panicked. I’m not 50 (quite) and didn’t want to lose all my teeth just yet.

I asked my dentist if he could recommend a hygienist and was told that I’d have to move dentists to get to see a hygienist, but knowing what pain I’d been in, he said he’d refer me to a private periodontist. ‘But it’ll cost you,’ he said.

I was desperate. I said yes.

It cost me a horrific amount of money which I’m still paying for on HP, but nine months on my gums are so much better, I have had no more teeth out and if I continue looking after them, I should keep all the teeth I have.

Now that my NHS dentist has another hygienist and I have finished with the private treatment, I will go back on the NHS.

A two tier system I would say.

The other instance was more recently with my gynae problems. Here again I was desperate, but was able to see a specialist once, privately and quickly, but continue to see her on the NHS.

That saved me six weeks of what would have been agony. I got a leg up the ladder. I was very fortunate that I was able to pay the necessary amount to go privately (and recoup the money in words!).

And yet the government say we can’t have a two tier health system.

In the same breath, I hear that it’s perfectly possible for people unable to get treatment over here to be treated in Europe. And claim the cost back from their NHS Trust.

Excuse me. If that isn’t two tier, what is?

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Best blogging buddies

I have been awarded this by wakeupandsmellthecoffee, for which much thanks. I only arrived in blogland in May this year and I have now made a new bunch of friends all over the world. Rather than pick seven of you, I’d like to pass it to you all. You deserve it!

Life here in Falmouth is freezing as we are in the teeth of an easterly gale which has been raging for the last three days and promises to continue for another three. This means that every time I go out of the house, I feel as if someone has thrown a bucket of icy water over me. It trickles down my back with determination, freezing my hands, feet, nose, ears, anything it can get hold of. It also sucks any warmth out of the house so even when I get in, despite the central heating being on for hours, it’s still cold.

And in case you’re wondering, if it wasn’t for this hyperactive dog, I wouldn’t go out…

However, not to be deterred by bad weather, Himself has gone off to the workshop for the third day in a row to make a box for the new love in his life. The one that it arrived in isn’t as lovely as he thought it was, and as he can’t find anything suitable, he decided to make one.

Four trips to Trago later, he has plywood, velvet and several cans of spray paint. He’s taken all the fixtures off the old case, including an old Boosey sticker (before it became Boosey & Hawkes) and has now assembled the box which looks very fine.

(Well, it looks like a box, to be honest, but I had to make the appropriate noises.)

Now all it needs is some padding and it’s ready for its red velvet lining. Fit for a queen, you might say.

Lucky thing, eh? In my next life I’m coming back as a cornet.

Monday, 17 December 2007

The Winter of Discontent

We took James out for his weekly outing on Sunday morning and could see that everything’s so much more of an effort. Talking, walking, thinking – everything has slowed down and the dear fellow looks much older all of a sudden.

Even a few weeks ago he was relaxed, laughing at his mistakes when he said the wrong thing or stumbled. Now it’s as if the winter of old age has crept up and has thrown a thick coat around him. A scarf of confusion is wrapped around his neck and he's disorientated and, I fear, frightened. That’s the worst part.

Talking is virtually impossible; he gets so muddled that the wrong words come out and it’s difficult to guess what he’s trying to say. In the car he kept saying, ‘I’d like to get some – you know – honey.’

It wasn’t honey, but I have no idea what he did mean. Then he came out with ‘trousers’ which wasn’t what he meant either.

He can’t write because he has terrible rheumatism, so communication is, at best, difficult. Throughout a process of miming, we managed to work out that he wanted to get a razor, so after coffee and shortbread at a café in town, we hit Tesco.

‘I want some – er – er - chocolate,’ he said. ‘You know, to eat in bed.’ He smiled forlornly and said, ‘I probably shouldn’t, but …’

‘Of course,’ I said and steered him firmly round the aisles where he chose three family sized slabs of chocolate, three large packs of plain chocolate digestives, a tube of toothpaste and a pack of disposable razors.

When we got back to his room, I hung up his winter coat and at the bottom of the wardrobe I noticed three tubes of toothpaste, four bottles of mouthwash and six tubes of Steradent (for his dentures).

Whenever we go out we always pay for our own drinks to save confusion. This time, when he saw us out, he gave me a big hug and managed to say, ‘Next time I’d like to pay for all of it.’

And that is what I will always remember him for. A warm and loving, generous friend.

Friday, 14 December 2007

More Cornets

Himself has just heard that the cornet he sold a few weeks ago has now turned up in Uganda. He got an email from the buyer saying how pleased he was, and where he was. So let’s hope some little Ugandan boy is learning the play the cornet. What a story that would be…..

Last night I met my dear mate Carole for a drink – she’s partly living in Exeter these days so we don’t get to meet too often and had a lot to catch up on.

There’s something very special about good friends. It doesn’t matter when you last met, or what you’ve been doing since. Once you’ve met up again, the hours just fly by, as they did last night.

But I digress.

When I got back, Himself was in the kitchen, misty eyed and playing the cornet. ‘This is it, Pop,’ he said. ‘This is just such a magic cornet. I’m in love.’

‘Good, darling,’ I said with a certain amount of déjà vu. ‘I’m really glad.’

‘No, honestly Pop. This is just perfect – the pitch is wonderful. Even Pete said so (his brother).’

(This phrase was repeated at various times over the evening. I forget how many times.)

‘It’s taken a lot of time and expense to find the right instrument, but now I have, I can’t tell you how pleased I am.’

‘Good,’ I said. ‘Rather like finding the right woman, darling.’ I paused, realising one big difference. ‘Except, of course, that the women were cheaper.’

‘Oh,’ he said. You could see him thinking this one through. ‘That’s a bit harsh, Pop.’

‘Well, you didn’t pay £45 for me, did you?’

‘No,’ he said. ‘No, that’s very true.’ And he smiled.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Not Another One..

Hold this thought:

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is
exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different
kinds of good weather.

John Ruskin, author, art critic, and social reformer (1819-1900).

Yesterday the latest cornet arrived. Himself has been in a fervour of anticipation, pacing up and down the flat all yesterday, insisting that one of us was at home in case it arrived. He even went up to the post office on the corner to ask how long it would take, given the Christmas post.

Of course it arrived yesterday morning when we were out at a hospital appointment, but he was able to go up to the sorting office and collect it.

The new cornet is in fact an old, treasured cornet that has been playing in brass bands since the 1930s. It looks rather tarnished to me, like someone who’s stayed up all night. But I would never dare say so.

The case was shabby which he has now stripped with a hot air gun (why?) to reveal battered black leather.

He spent all afternoon cleaning it, polishing it and playing it (I’m learning to work while he practises). And he’s now happy.

“This is THE ONE, Pop.”

Now where have I heard that before?

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Other People

Words are timeless. You should utter them or write them with a knowledge of
their timelessness.

Khalil Gibran, mystic, poet, and artist (1883-1931)

My mother has this thing about hands. She will always notice people’s fingers, how many rings they wear, and what they’re like, and what people do with their hands. (I wave mine around a lot when I’m talking.)

A friend of mine notices hands too. ‘You can tell how anxious Gordon Brown is,’ she said. ‘He’s always twisting his with nerves.’

Another friend was watching my legs on my recent TV blip. ‘They were ever so still,’ she said. ‘Mine would have been hopping around all over the place.’

But she also notices smiles. I try and keep my mouth shut because my front teeth stick out (despite years of braces as a child). Then when I had a lot of problems with toothache and bad gums, I didn’t dare open my mouth at all. I became paranoid about other people’s teeth, and wouldn’t talk to them if they had good ones. (It’s difficult to talk with your mouth shut.)

As for me, well I notice people’s voices. I also notice what shape they are.

What do you notice about other people?

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Bad Hair Day

Another of these amazing foodie pictures....

I’ve been tagged by AOJ to name five weird or strange things about myself, so here they are:-

I have always had lots of nicknames. Some of these include Kit Kat, Sweet, Rabbit, Flower and latterly Flowerpot, Pot, or Pop. (As you can see, I answer to a variety of name calling.)

I don’t really like staying in hotels or B&Bs. If we could afford a holiday I’d like to go self catering or hire a campervan but a) we can’t afford it and b) Himself doesn’t like the idea, so that’s that!

My bad back means that I can’t sit comfortably in a car – any car – for more than half an hour so travel anywhere is somewhat limited and takes ages to accommodate back stretching for me and pee stops for Mollie. It takes my mother two hours to drive down to us. It takes us about four hours to do the same journey. You can see why we don’t go away much.

I was going to be called Emily after a great aunt (or someone) then parents looked at me and decided no. She was beautiful.

I hate shopping. My idea of hell is a Saturday afternoon spent At The Shops. I do my Christmas shopping either very early or late in the day, to avoid other shoppers. Every present I buy has to be right for the recipient – I can’t just buy Things. Knowing me, the Sunday afternoon before Christmas I’ll nip down to the shops and I can sneak in and out, rush home and wrap. If not - well, we won’t go there.

If anyone else would like to take up this tag, please do so.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Fame Part Three

As we are such a famous family now, the above is a picture of Himself playing in a jazz band a couple of weeks ago. (He's the one on the right, playing with his mate Bob.) He was to have been playing this Wednesday but unfortunately the venue was already booked, so that will have to wait until after Christmas.

In the meantime, you know that cornet he bought a few weeks ago? The one that was JUST RIGHT, POP. The one that he spent ages reshaping, stripping of lacquer and doing god knows what else to?
It’s gone back on ebay

He did laugh, rather nervously, and said, ‘”the tone’s wrong, Pop.”
Story of my life.

He sold it at a loss of £45 .

“Just as well you’re not trying to make money,” I said (though of course this was the idea).

Out walking the dog on Saturday, he said, “Come on, Pop. I have to get back to check my internet business.” He giggled. “It’s called”

Just to compound matters financial, he bought another cornet last night on ebay at the knockdown price of £42. I despair.

For those of you asking if I could put my moments of fame on Youtube – I don’t (yet) have a DVD of the programme, but for a good laugh, you can see it on the Westcountry TV website - and click on Documentaries.

Unfortunately I sound like Ann Widdecombe. But we don’t look alike.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Flowerpot's Moments of Fame Part Two

Mum rang at six o’clock last night.

‘In my paper it says something else is on at 7.30,’ she said. You could hear the panic bubbling down the phone. ‘Are you sure?’

‘Well, that’s what Dermot said and I guess he should know,’ I said. Thinking, well, there’s not much I can do about programme timings.

‘You will tape it, won’t you, so I can see it when I come down?’ bleated poor Mum.

I reassured her – Himself had spent some time making sure that the video would tape, and all went well up until 7.20 when I dashed next door to put the tape on.

It wouldn’t work. I hollered to Himself who grunted, abandoned the last of his meal and hurried down the corridor, saying, ‘Don’t be silly, Pop, it was working this afternoon.’

Ten minutes later, it still wasn’t working so I ran back to the snowy screened telly in the kitchen, shouting at Himself to come and watch.

He emerged, nearly in tears of rage and threw the remote onto the floor. It broke.
He was past caring.

‘****ing thing,’ he said – and other words in a similar vein.

Then we sat down and watched my fleeting glimpse of fame together.

I can’t tell you what a relief it was not to come over as some idiot who couldn’t string two words together. Then Mum rang for her debrief – she approved, saying, ‘you looked almost intelligent.’

Thanks, Mum.

Then my mate Deb rang to offer congratulations and Himself kissed me and said, ‘I’m so proud of you, Pop.’

By this time I was so excited I was running up and down the flat, saying ‘Mollie, Mollie, Mum’s famous!’

Mollie looked at me quizzically and jumped up and down as well, and after about half an hour, Himself said, ‘Careful, Pop. You’ll burst.’ And sent us out for a long walk.

I'm glad to say that a friend has taped it for me, so I can relive my moments of glory over and over and bore myself rigid (I won't inflict it on anyone else, never fear).

But The main reason I was so pleased was that the object of the programme was to vote for your favourite Westcountry author. The others on the panel voted for Thomas Hardy whereas I was torn between Daphne du Maurier and Mary Wesley.

I was glad to see that they opened the programme with my first soundbite on Mary Wesley and sex, (yes they did keep that bit!) and closed it with mine on Daphne du Maurier’s gift for writing. So I had my say.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Flowerpot's 30 seconds of TV Fame

Tonight the Westcountry Hall of Fame programme series starts on ITV Westcountry (ITV1) at 1930 (that’s 7.30pm to the likes of me).

I have to say here that the fame in the programme title refers, sadly, not to my participation but to those featured - i.e. famous writers. Of which I am not one YET.

Tonight's programme will feature writers, music and painters. The second one on 13th December looks at entrepreneurs, politicians, campaigners. Programme 3 looks at sailor/adventurers, inventors, visionaries on 20th Dec, and the last programme on Thursday 27th December is all about saving lives, soldiers, sporting heroes.

As Dermot, the producer, says,

“In addition – and to facilitate viewers’ votes – we will have a strong presence on the new, dedicated ITV Westcountry web page: which will go "live" for each programme immediately after transmission. This will guide online visitors through the voting process, and will allow them to view either the entire programme or – to refresh memories for those who will already have seen it – the background films on the nominees. Do please log on to vote yourself and, perhaps more importantly, ask all of your friends, colleagues and neighbours to do the same!! The results of the viewer voting for each programme will be posted on the website on the Monday following the programme, and will be announced soon thereafter on “Westcountry Live” (weekday evenings 1800-1830 on ITV1).

We are sure you understand that we have had to edit the discussions (which averaged about 25 minutes) down to a fraction of that. Sadly, to squeeze 3 categories into a programme that runs for 23 minutes in total, each discussion runs for less than 4 minutes or so. Rest assured, though, that we have chosen the very best of the discussions, that every panel member contributes, and that all five nominees get a mention. This means that some material that we had hoped to include has had to be dropped, but the end result has much better pace and rhythm without hesitation, repetition etc.

We hope you enjoy watching.”

It will be interesting to see whether my bit about Mary Wesley and sex will remain in. I’ll just have to wait till this evening to see my 30 seconds of fame..

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Film Buff

Last night I went to see A Mighty Heart – the film about Daniel and Marianne Pearl.

(I don’t usually see so many films but there are a glut on at our local independent cinema and I like to make the most of them while they’re here, which is usually only for one night.)

For those of you that don’t know, Daniel Pearl was a journalist with the Wall Street Journal working in Pakistan when he was kidnapped. I’d wanted to see this as I’d heard Marianne Pearl interviewed on Woman’s Hour and was struck by what she’d been through and how incredibly together she seemed, how gutsy.

Also, I used to work at WTN at the time when John McCarthy was a hostage. I knew Jill Morrell and became involved in Friends of John McCarthy, so I was interested to see how this film would portray this terrible time for the Pearls. As it was produced by Brad Pitt and starred Angelina Jolie as Marianne, I feared it might turn it into a Hollywood soap saga.

Stupidly, I hadn’t realised that the whole film would be devoted to his kidnap and the incredible efforts involved worldwide with trying to get him back. I’d thought the focus would be on how she got over this terrible tragedy. WRONG.

I don’t know how I got through the film. It was gut wrenchingly agonising. I spent two hours knotted up, waiting for his inevitable gruesome murder, which didn’t happen right until the very end by which time I was in tangles, and completely empathised with her unspeakable anguish. (She howled, the most terrifying sound.)

All I could think of was, this is how I’d feel if Himself was taken. The ethos of No Deals with Terrorists is one thing, but if it was your loved one…..?

Still, it showed how hard everyone worked to get him back and the technology involved nowadays is mind boggling. Of course I had nightmares last night, and I’m feeling extremely jittery this morning, but it was worth seeing. I just couldn’t sit through it again.

She showed true courage at the end. She must have been about 7 months pregnant and decided that if she was going to be able to live in peace, she must face the worst – know exactly what had happened to Danny – and then there was nothing to be frightened of. I won’t repeat what did happen because it was just terrible, but what bravery. And what sense she had.

At the end of the film, she has her son, Adam, and she continues her work as a journalist in Paris. So life goes on. Perhaps Adam will grow up to be a journalist like his parents. Perhaps not. But Danny Pearl has brought his son into the world, and for that Marianne must be eternally grateful.

How on earth you cope with that sort of ordeal I can’t imagine. It’s not as if anyone says, ‘OK you can bunk off now if you’ve had enough.’ You either get through the bad times or you go under. But most of us do get through – somehow - because we have to. Because things will get better. Because we have courage, and we have optimism.

If we’re very lucky we have a sense of humour. The most underrated emotion of all.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

What chefs do when they're bored

This picture has nothing whatsoever to do with the following post but appeals to my sense of humour.

The other evening I went down to the Falmouth Bookseller, our very own independent bookshop, to support Jo Thomas, a fellow writer who was doing a book signing for her excellent book, “Lost Cornwall,” all about Cornwall’s heritage.

It was one of those cold, wet, windy nights when you’d rather be sitting inside with a glass of wine looking out on the weather, but I drove off to find a road block at the top of the High Street. Never mind, I thought, I’ll go another way.

I drove right round the town, got down onto the Moor and found another road block. Policemen. Crowds of people. What the hell was going on? By this time my temper was not improving and I very nearly went straight home. I could hardly see out of the windscreen, it was raining so hard.

Finally I got down to the car park behind the bookshop and found the last space (hah!) and found you had to pay £1.10 minimum charge. Dear God… But I did.

When I finally got there, Jo was sitting with a pile of books and we had a long chat. Furthermore, I had a very good glass of red wine while we talked. I could even have had a mince pie but I don’t like them – they make my teeth squeak with their saccharine sweetness.

I apologised for being late and moaned about the traffic and was told that it was the first night of late night shopping and the Christmas Lights were being turned on, hence all the crowds and policemen.

I cheered up then (half way through my glass of wine) and watched a procession of children with Christmas lanterns and almost started to feel festive. (This is someone who is allergic to Christmas and realised, with a jolt this morning, that I haven’t bought a single card or present.)

I guess there’s a motto in here somewhere – about persevering and getting your just rewards and all that. In this instance, I was more than happy to settle for a good chat with a fellow writer and a glass of (very nice) red wine.

And, of course, Jo’s book which I got for Mum for Christmas. So I have got a present after all.

Monday, 3 December 2007

The Bread Man

This is not Himself's bread, but comes courtesy of Madison&Mayberry. But it serves to illustrate one of the problems to do with breadmaking.

Himself is now on his sixth loaf of bread in the last few weeks. We’re talking home made bread here, and not with a breadmaker.

The whole process takes between an hour and two hours depending on how long the yeast takes to rise. First the flour – this can be white, wholemeal, granary, organic, non-organic or a variety of those mentioned. This is weighed then mixed with the yeast which can be dried or fresh and mixed in hot water with a variety of ingredients which can include, at various times; salt, sugar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, malt extract or none of these things.

It’s put in a bread tin and left to rise. I get confused with the varying methods – sometimes it rises once, others twice when it is pummelled (sorry, kneaded) and put back in the tin. The actual cooking of the bread takes about 35-40 minutes.

Every time it comes out of the oven it smells delicious. Every time Himself cuts a chunk off the end, covers it liberally in butter and says, ‘Mmmm. Best ever, Pop. This is JUST RIGHT.’

And every time I say, ‘Good darling.’

The next day, at breakfast time, he eats the toast and goes very quiet. Bottom lip protrudes.

‘What’s the matter, darling?’ (though I can guess by now.)

‘It’s the bread. It’s no good.’ Beginning of Sulk.

‘What’s the matter? Tastes all right to me.’

‘No.’ Sigh. ‘It’s rubbish. Too *heavy/crumbly/light/didn’t rise enough/rose too much (select one of these or a selection of all).’ Another sigh as he eats another piece. ‘I’m going to have to make some more.’

The bread is then either thrown out or given to various friends/relations who are less discerning or throw it in their bin.

This has continued over the weeks, interspersed with times when he eats Tesco organic sliced granary bread (it has to be that or nothing). I have made various comments about Waste (that flour is expensive, to say nothing of the cooking time) which as you can imagine, haven't gone down well.

At the moment he’s actually quite pleased with his loaf and is munching his way through it.

Unfortunately I can’t eat it. I find it like Cranks food when it first came out. (For those of you too young to remember this, their bread was Lead Like to say the least.)

As a friend of mine said, “depression is very much like a Cranks cheese scone. It takes a long time to go away.”