Wednesday, 4 December 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Life Adjustments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Troubles come in Threes....

Picture taken on Dodman Point - as I love the reflection on a day very like today.

Over the past month I have had more than my usual share of Big Stuff to deal with. And you know what they say about trouble coming in threes? I have been thinking - nervously - uh oh - what’s the third one?

And here it is - Moll has been diagnosed with arthritis. Sorry for all of you who aren't dog lovers, but it's just a bit Canine-centric at the moment.

Recently she’s been having trouble jumping up onto the bed or sofa, and looking at me with her head on one side as if to say, Help, Mum! Arthritis is very common in older dogs, I know, but it is degenerative and I hate to think of the poor little thing in pain, so she is now on anti-inflammatories as well as supplements which contain green lipped mussels, glucosamine, Manganese as well as vitamins C and E. So I'm trying to hit it from both the medical and alternative route.

So my kitchen once again looks like a chemist, with pills for her heart, pills for her joints and medicine for her aches and pains, bless her. She is so very dear to me and I just want to provide the best possible life for her as she gets older.

Massage is good for all dogs, and I was looking at various techniques on YouTube yesterday, some of which made me laugh for the first time in a while. The comments were even funnier. Madam likes a massage when she’s standing up but don’t try it when she’s lying down.... And you thought human beings were complex?

I was also sent a link to a brilliant website all about managing Canine Arthritis which advised making changes around the house to make things easier for her. This includes steps up onto the bed - well, in the garage I found a large rubber step that looked as if it was used for decorating. So that’s now by the bed and by dint of tempting her with treats, she’s getting the hang of using that instead of just jumping up onto the bed. Trouble is, when it’s dark, I keep bashing my shins on it….

Next is a ramp into the van. Some of you who don’t know Moll may wonder why I don’t just pick her up. To say she doesn’t like being picked up is an understatement. Her swearing is quite impressive, and having worked in an Antipodean newsroom, I am no stranger to a wide vocabulary of swearing. So I found a large piece of wood, again in the garage, that Joe sawed down for me so I have yet to try that in getting her into the van. This could be a lot trickier to persuade her to use.

Also I now realise that her bed in the van is too high so I’ll have to ask someone to saw the legs down for me.

And lastly there is the problem of the flight of steps leading up to my front door. They are granite and quite steep. If anyone has any ideas on how to get round this one - or anything else that would make her life easier, I would be SO grateful.

November is not my favourite time of the month - well, and with this weather, who does like it? But this one does seem particularly grey and lacking in cheer. The other day I was telling my Belgian friend about the film Shirley Valentine, of which she hadn’t heard.

I am now sitting here with my SAD lamp on wishing I was on a Greek island. Actually, any holiday would do, but being warm would be a bonus. With Moll and a sexy hunk on either side of me. We can but hope.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

The Fighter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Jumping in the deep end

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

An artist and novel changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 15 October 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 3 October 2019


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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Une petite vacance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 20 September 2019

Heart and Barrie Cook

Barrie Cook's amazing paintings don't come across in photographs nearly as well as they do in the flesh, but I was fortunate enough to meet this man on Wednesday. I am featuring him in my new book, WALKS IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF CORNISH ARTISTS, and a kinder, lovelier man I have yet to meet.

And his talent - he has been spray painting (mostly) since the 1960s and is still working now, at the age of 90. Despite a track of ill health - including a lot of major surgery - he has retained his sense of humour, has no sense of ego and is refreshingly down to earth and unpretentious about the Art World.

Jac, Daisy, Mollie Dog and I did a walk round Ruan Minor (where his studio is), Cadgwith and Poltesco last weekend, in glorious weather, as a tribute to this wonderful artist - and Cornwall was looking at her very best.

On a more sombre note, poor Moll had the long awaited heart scans - ECG, ultrasound etc - on Tuesday - and I don't know who was more upset, me or her. As I hadn't expected them to do them on the spot, neither of us were prepared (probably just as well) but I felt terrible leaving her there, and apparently she made her displeasure known. (I pity those vets sometimes.)

Thankfully the lovely heart specialist rang later to say the results are OK - her heart isn't enlarged to any degree though that could be the meds she's on, and to keep her active and on the meds. I have to monitor her breathing carefully - I've got a chart to do this with - and to notify them if any changes at once. I won't go into the details of what could happen if and when her condition disintegrates, but basically she could well die the same way as darling Pip died, and I couldn't bear that. So they will do everything they can to prevent that.

So you can imagine how I felt. And it's one of those times being on your own is really hard. I kept busy at work, had meeting, then had a swim, and finally was able to pick her up. But the poor girl was so woozy and wouldn't let me pick her up, was obviously really disorientated and frightened I would imagine. I got her home and she couldn't settle - staggered from lying under the bed to behind the sofa and swore at me, growling ferociously. My god was I in her bad books.

I'm glad to say that by evening she was obviously feeling better as she had some food and cuddled up to me in bed and all was forgiven. But boy did I miss Pip then.
I am happy to report that she is back to her normal bolshie self, and hope she will continue to be for a long while...

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Next book

This is me (and Moll of course) doing our morning yoga...

It's not quite, though a better place to practise yoga I can't imagine. Having a lull work wise while I wait for my novel to come back from being read through, and a lull in work (worrying but not much I can do about it), I decided that, having signed a contract for Book Six, I'd better get on with it. So last week Heather and Moll and I set off for Coverack to do first walk for my new book, centred round Terence Coventry's sculpture park.

I first came across it about 8 years ago - literally stumbled across it, being set in meadows a mile or so from Coverack. And what a find - the most superb sculptures made by an ex-farmer whose first exhibition in London was at the age of 71. I interviewed him several times and was struck by how vital, focused and driven he was - and utterly his own man, creating work for himself, not driven by the dictates of some London art gallery.

His sculptures are big, some huge, and all inspired by animals, birds and the landscape that surrounded him. Here are a few.
That one's called "J'Accuse"....

It was a real joy and privilege to meet Terence, who sadly died a few years ago. I only hope they preserve his park as a place where one and all can enjoy his wonderful work.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

The Launch

Well the launch went so well, I couldn't have asked for a better night!

Despite being shattered before the event (for some reason I always am - nervous exhaustion probably), I walked down just before 6pm on a balmy evening to find a host of friends already there, including my dear friend Ali and the rest of the Ukulele Orchestra of Constantine, setting up. They played their fantastic music in the background while the art gallery filled up with lots of friends who bought books, chatted and drank wine. In short, it was great.

The lovely thing about having a party in a gallery is that it lends a different dimension - people can wander off and look at the exhibits and, as the Director said, the atmosphere changes with every exhibition. It also introduces the gallery to those who might not otherwise go. So it's a win win situation.

Afterwards a few of us went on to have a bite to eat - despite being exhausted, this is a really important time for me, I find, otherwise I go home feeling really flat. So it's great to have the company of good friends around me. And it made me realise what fantastic friends I have.

One of whom, Carol Rea, took the pictures, which are brilliant - though her work always is. If ever you want a good photographer in Cornwall let me know and I'll pass her details on.

So here's a big thank you to everyone who came, bought books, and generally made my evening so very special.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Walks in the Footsteps of Rosamunde Pilcher

Well, next Monday is the launch of this, my fifth book, and it all feels rather distant. I almost feel as if I never wrote it, though of course looking through it I remember each walk in detail - who I went with, what time of year it was, what we saw, ate, talked about. Each walk is like a person, with different characteristics, different flavours and values.

The weather of course plays a huge part - a walk in February at Pencarrow was cold but with that clear wintry sun that warmed our bones once we were out of the wind. A fascinating house we saw near St Mabyn that was part derelict, part refurbished - one half each. Very odd.

Whereas walking at Lanydrock in June in sweltering heat, we were glad to plunge into the woods out of the sun (difficult to imagine, as I write this with rain bucketing down in typical August fashion). We found a shaded place by the river to eat our lunch and where Moll could have a drink of fresh water from the River Fowey.

One in May over on the Lizard - the day Harry and Meghan married. We thought we'd be the only ones not watching the Royal Wedding, but there were many of us sampling the strong spring sunshine. Egg and tomato sandwiches from Mullion. Delicious in their simplicity!

A murky winter day where we discovered Restormel Manor, and the Duchy of Cornwall Nurseries. Prince Charles calls in unannounced, several times a year, apparently, to keep everyone on their toes. We had a cup of coffee at the cafe there and were astounded by the elaborate cakes on offer for High Tea. And the prices....

My walks books are more like diaries in a way - they record so much more than just the route that we walked, which is of course a huge part of it. But the places, the people, the friends and the food, the weather and the sensations of the day are all included. If you read any of my books, I just hope you enjoy them as much as we did.
This, by the way, is the view along Port Navas Creek from Trenarth Bridge.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Beach art

This recent spell of not feeling well has meant frequent trips to the nearest dog friendly beach and as many swims as possible. And I give many thanks for the fact that I am able to do so, without driving very far (driving any distance has been banned until my head stops spinning and the exhaustion has passed).

So Porth Saxon has been my place to go just about every afternoon. Normally Moll and I would be sick of doing the same walk all the time but there's something soothing, when not feeling well, about knowing where we can go for a swim (or sit on the beach). Knowing that we don't have to walk too far, and that it won't be too busy when we get there.

The other bonus about not being myself is that I have had licence to read. And, oh, have I read! Most notably The Red Notebook and The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain, The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris. All very different books but ones that have made their mark on me - in a pleasurable way!

Yesterday I went down there and walked round to the next cove with my friend Anne. I was really tired and feeling weepy but we'd stopped for a coffee on the way and had a biscuit so glucose levels were rectified, and when we got down, this was what we saw. Beach art.

I love the way these sculptures had been so carefully crafted. You see them all over Cornwall, but not often ones so large, or several all together. I thought of all the work and patience and talent that had gone into making them, and if you could see a hug, that was what it felt like. A visual hug.

We sat on the beach, Anne and I, in a stiff south westerly breeze, and deliberated whether to swim or not. The water was very choppy and we were both wearing contact lenses, so it wasn't advisable. Plus it was cloudy, so no sun to warm us up when we came out.

But we sat and admired the stone sculptures, and I thought once again how incredibly lucky I am to live in such a place where even feeling a bit grim is easier.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

In the wars

Poor Moll has had a few weeks - actually, a month, on and off, of an upset tummy (I'm being polite here) which, as any pet owner will appreciate, is incredibly worrying. To say nothing of incredibly expensive - three visits to the vet last week, including sending samples off to the lab - results awaited tomorrow.

However, this morning she seems a lot better, and while I am wary, I am also so relieved. I feel like jumping with joy - although the poor girl is on reduced walks and the most boring bland food you could imagine. You can imagine her expression - it looks like eating rice krispies and I'm sure tastes about the same. However, along with a good friend of mine who is a homeopath, the two remedies seem to be doing the trick so I am crossing fingers that it lasts.

The other thing was last week I suddenly became really dizzy, during singing. I thought Oh it'll pass, but it has got worse so I went to the GP who said it's labrynthitis. It's an infection of the inner ear but basically I have to rest a lot, drink plenty of water and do weird exercises which include lying down to the left and right, 15 times a day. No, it's not a weird joke but supposed to re-set the crystals in the inner ear.

But it's a pain. I've had to cancel most things this week, haven't been able to work longer than about half an hour before having to lie down. One minute I feel OK, the next it's as if someone's just pulled the plug on my energy and I have to go to bed. I dimly remember having this years ago and it did take several weeks to pass. So let's hope this passes sooner than that. It's very frustrating!

So here's from the two incapacitated ones, wishing you all a good week. This was taken several years ago now but Moll doesn't look a day older, dear of her.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

One of Those Days

One of the things I really love to do is explore Cornwall. Hence my books. And the joy of writing walks books is that it does take you to places you'd never normally go.

But although I'm not writing one this year, we have explored some lovely places nearer to home recently. The area round Porkellis is a favourite, and Carnmenellis, and over the past week, when it's been really hot, we've shortened the walks and aimed for dog friendly beaches. There are some really beautiful ones near here, and on a sweltering day, it's been bliss to walk down through the woods and jump into crystal clear water to cool off. Moll benefits hugely - she finds the heat a bit much - unsurprising given her fur coat - and she has taken to swimming in small circles, running out onto the beach and dashing back in again to rescue one of us.

Today I just haven't been able to concentrate, which is most unlike me. Lots of runaway thoughts, and I can't sit still either, have a yearning to be out and exploring. So having done the work I needed to do, as it's the afternoon, and it's hot and sticky, Moll and I are heading out to cool off.

And thank our lucky stars that we can do so, in such a beautiful part of the world.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Penzance Lit Fest and exploring

Our radio interviews went well, I'm glad to say, though Moll is quite the prima donna now - as you can see. She has taken over as my accountant. I never was good with adding machines....

One of the joys of living in Cornwall is going out to explore. Recently we've had some amazing walks and this was also covered in a talk I did with Steph Haxton and Matt Watts last Sat at the Penzance Lit Fest. Matt works for the Penwith Landscape Partnership, which is essentially a group of people and organisations who got together to "agree a vision for the Penwith landscape". Essentially it's all about preserving old sites, footpaths etc and using volunteers to do so as well as understanding the countryside through literature, arts and language.

It was great to be part of the Penzance Lit Fest, though I would have liked to have spent more time there. Sadly, my dog sitters were away and it was too long to leave Moll on her own, but next year, I hope to be able to actually attend other people's talks!

Matt's talk tied in very much with what we've discovered recently - that the public footpaths need to be used in order for them to survive Over the past few weeks we've done several walks that look exciting on the map, but having followed them, very often they come to nothing, or are too overgrown, or have just disappeared, which can be very frustrating.

However, even though the paths might not have been what we expected, we've had some lovely walks, and swims. It's been too hot for Moll till later on, so we've been setting off later and finding a stream or by the sea where we can all jump in and cool off. Walking's a lot easier after that!

We've found some lovely hidden coves, and yesterday, being short on time, scrambled over rocks (I was doubting the wisdom of this, but it was well worth it when we got there!). And we had the beach to ourselves, the water was amazingly clear and we had a brilliant time, nicknaming it Half Moon Beach.

And all this, a ten minute drive from home!

I do love this weather, though it does make it harder to concentrate, I find...

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Radio Fame

This afternoon Moll and I are going to be interviewed for BBC Radio Cornwall - they're doing a section on how much our pets mean to us, and how, as a writer, I am inspired and helped by Moll.

Well, there are so many ways. When she was a tiny pup, Pip was diagnosed with prostate cancer - it was a terrifying time and we didn't feel like talking to anyone. But she kept us going. And as a result Pip lost weight, became more interested in life again. When he was later diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, she similarly bought joy into our lives. And so it's gone on, bless her, though now she's slowed down a bit due to heart problems and old age, I am more aware of how special she is.

And talking of media appearances, I am also taking part in the Penzance Lit Fest this Saturday, in the Penlee Coach House with Steph Haxton and Matt Watts. Unfortunately there's been hiccups in the programme so it doesn't look like we're taking part, but we are - so please do come along and listen.

In haste, off to be interviewed! (Interesting to be the interviewee for a change!)

Wednesday, 26 June 2019


I know I've written a lot about confidence, but it does make such a difference, doesn't it?

For the last few months I've enjoyed a wave of much needed confidence - in part inspired by a) regular, promptly paid research work (the promptly paid bit being a welcome rarity, as all freelancers know) and b) being in the wonderful creative flow of writing a novel again.

Well, once I finished the first draft of the novel, all that creative flow stopped. And it was as if my confidence dried up with it. All of a sudden I was stricken by terrible doubts, most of which amounted to the fact that this will never be published. I've written other novels in the past which haven't been published (though I did get shortlisted for the first three chapters for the last one). But we all know what it's like when the Confidence Gremlins creep in, and have a riot. Party time! They cry, running round, dragging every insecurity out and drenching it in doom till they lie, waterlogged and lifeless, like beached seaweed.

Of course being ill can be another reason for losing confidence, or losing a loved one, be that a four legged one or a two legged one. Reading reviews on Amazon I know has set many a writer off into a chronic wobble. DON'T DO IT!!

So what do we do? Well, I felt terrible for a week or two culminating in last weekend when, not helped by the fact that poor Mr B is feeling wretched, I had convinced myself that everything was DIRE. My energy levels were so low I could hardly get out of bed, let alone walk Moll, and I had lost the desire to write or do anything much except curl up in a ball and stay in bed.

But I felt it would do me a good to get a sense of place for where my novel is set (which had been lacking), so on Sunday afternoon we set off and despite the rain, had a good recce where I took enough photos to give me an idea of the setting. We then had a drink in the Blue Anchor on the way home, which is such a friendly pub, where all the locals look as if they've stepped off the pages of a Dickens novel.

Fingernail by fingernail I am clawing back. I have started editing the novel (first edit, long way to go) but by little steps we can all make enough progress to keep going. Baby steps.....

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

A Frog Blog and Moll losing Sight

To do this in reverse order, I had to take Moll to the vet yesterday and learned that while her heart medication is working, so her heart's working brilliantly again, she can't see much at all now - the vet shone a light into her eyes and couldn't see the back at all as her cataracts are bad now. I was so upset, and stood there with tears dribbling down my cheeks, but the lovely vet reassured me that dogs manage incredibly well without much sight, if any.

It's difficult to think of her not being able to see - and in fact I feel sure that she can see at least peripherally as she can jump into the van perfectly all right, she doesn't fall over and she doesn't bump into things. There are no signs that she can't see - though of course dogs rely so much on their noses, it's difficult to tell.

And for Moll, this isn't a sudden thing - she's presumably been losing her sight for years now as the cataracts have been there for a while. She isn't bothered, and therefore nor should we. And my lovely girl is still bouncing around like a good 'un, bless her.

So much so that yesterday we had another new walk out near Porkellis. The footpath was boggy so we ended up doing mountain goat impressions over a lot of it and then Mr B stopped, suddenly, looked at the ground. It was covered in what he thought were ants. But on second glance, they were millions of tiny wee frogs. Coming to a pond nearby, we noticed the black blogs all round the edges - these were the frogs just hatching (or whatever they do).

It was quite the most wondrous thing to see - millions and millions of these tiny little fellas, jumping around like nobody's business - their first entrance into this world. (Sorry no picture as they were too small and so well camouflaged you couldn't see them in a picture. So here's my amazing hanging basket instead.)