Thursday 31 May 2007

Hyperactive Dogs and Paranoia

I'm sitting here looking out on a back yard deluged with rain. The snails are happy; they love my nasturtiums, some of which have obligingly sprouted from seeds my mother gave me. The others have seeded and sprouted themselves, and now grow in a tumble of yellow, red and orange, cascading from pots or, in one instance, climbing up the rotten wrought iron staircase (useful cover).

The weather's a far cry from yesterday, when Gwen and I headed off to Porthleven and walked eastwards, towards Prussia Cove. It was a typical picture postcard day; a strong wind whipping the waves up to pound menacingly onto the rocks below before sending up towers of spume in our faces.

Do you suffer from vertigo? Gwen and I both do, so in minutes our wonderful walk along the cliff was marred by visions of darling Mollie hurtling over the edge. I should add here that the path did pass very close to the edge of the cliff and as the tide was in, the seas were rampaging very close to where we walked. If Mollie was a child she'd be diagnosed with ADHD - she's completely hyper on a walk, and if she saw a seagull, jackdaw or rabbit, she'd be off after them quicker than you can imagine.

If that route took her over the cliff edge - I could imagine Mollie, lying lifeless and bleeding on the rocks below. I could hear my cries of anguish, Gwen's shout of horror as we peered over the edge, tried to get help. A friend of mine works for the coastguards and says they won't rescue animals who go over the edge of cliffs - not unless a human being is involved - so Mollie would die.The terrible phone call home to Himself, telling him what had happened. The agonising guilt and blame that I would have to live with for the rest of my life. If only we hadn't gone for cliff walk. If only, if only. You can see why it spoilt our walk, can't you?

And to think that other people walk the cliffs, totally unaware of these potential hazards........ I wonder, though, do these people have dogs and/or children?

It does prove that dogs can pick up how you feel. For once Moll trotted right by my feet, instead of bounding ahead, and when we retraced our steps, with more than a certain sense of relief, she kept close to my heels all the way back. It meant that we had another walk, in safer climes, around the Penrose Estate, where we all felt happy and she found something wonderful and smelly to roll in.

I sloped home feeling pleasantly tired but somewhat ashamed that my Cornish blood is defeated by the prospect of losing my dog (and/or myself and friend) over the edge of the cliff. This means that walking the coastal path is a No No for me. Or perhaps you can get aversion therapy for an overactive imagination? Anyone know?

Wednesday 30 May 2007

The Visitor

We have a dear friend staying, who has fled the confines of a small Devon village to be with us for her birthday. She started to come down here on holiday ten years ago with her daughter, who was then 11, and everyone in the village was amazed because Gwen never went anywhere. (She doesn’t drive so life is a little claustrophobic, the nearest town being 7 miles away.)

The first visit was a great success despite our TV having blown up. Unlike most 11 year olds, her daughter was quite happy sitting in our front window looking out on the harbour, the boats and the fields opposite, and they spent the days walking through the town exploring the shops, and logging incoming and outgoing boats. Since then they have been down every year and with each visit, Gwen’s confidence has grown. One year she got the bus to Truro and this opened up her horizons. The next time she and her daughter took several boat trips. Soon she decided that she would come down here by train instead of one of her offspring driving her.

The next year she lost weight, had a haircut and looked a different woman. Her daughter is now 19 and has a boyfriend so holidays with Mum are Off, but Gwen is part of our family and greatly welcomed by Mollie, who can smell a sucker a mile off and welcomes any addition to our walks. We now have a very good arrangement – Gwen pleases herself in the mornings while I write, then we meet for lunch, come back and pick up Hyperactive Dog and do a different (and very long) walk each day. Yesterday we walked through the long grassed fields of the Helford area, had tea at Trebah with the twittering sparrows and walked back, dodging the half term families making the most of their holiday lets.

Durgan is a hamlet of old schoolhouses, quaint cottages and old boat sheds that have now been tarted up so that no one can live there. They provide holidays for the affluent and deprive Cornish people of homes. We had an amiable rant as we walked yesterday, dreaming up policies to stop people buying second homes. How would they feel if it was their son or daughter unable to get their foot on the first rung of the housing ladder?

End of rant. I’m to finish editing the morning’s part of the book, then this afternoon we’re walking at Carwinion possibly, Porthleven or St Mawes – the possiblities are endless.

Tuesday 29 May 2007

Writing support network

On Saturday morning we had our writers' meeting, an invaluable time that is set aside each week for us to comment on each other's work. It’s uplifting to be with such stimulating company, and I find myself soothed and encouraged (whichever’s necessary) at the end of it. As writers, being solitary by nature at work, friends are so important – particularly those that understand the writing conundrum.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses - mine, good dialogue, lousy descriptions. I write fast prose, as I live my life - at top speed. Nancy writes the sort of descriptions that make you want to weep, they are so apt and picturesque, and she lives life at a much more sensible speed. She is wise and understanding, with a wonderful sense of humour. When we first met, and I explained that I couldn’t drink caffeine (I’m hyper enough without it), she looked at me and smiled. ‘I thought you were rather finely tuned,’ she said.

She is forever urging me to slow down (in writing as in life) and has nicknamed me Slasher Flowerpot – if a certain sentence or paragraph isn’t quite right, or part of it superfluous, I’m liable to slash a line right through it. ‘No, no!’ she cries. ‘Not all of it!’ So we talk it through, most of it is reinstated, and we strike a happy medium.

I've belonged to many writing groups and find that most peter out after a while: people move on, decide not to write, have other demands on their time. That doesn't matter; it's part of life. But writing friends are a different breed. We are all born with a strange gene that compels us to spend most of our days staring at a computer screen, tearing our hear out, being constantly rejected and trying to salvage what's left of our confidence. Not a job that you'd wish for your children. But I am eternally grateful for my writing friends, past and present.

What would I do without my support network?

Sunday 27 May 2007

Synchronising hot flushes?

This last week has heralded the onset of hot flushes. Still, I’d rather have hot ones than cold ones, though they do disrupt my sleep somewhat. I didn’t think about it much as I’ve always tended to overheat at night, but last weekend I was extremely down, which isn’t like me, convinced that I’d never ever get anything published again in the rest of my life – etc., and was so tired I kept having to go to bed in the afternoons. (I’m now completely hyperactive but we won’t go there.)
It was Himself who took me aside the other day and said, ‘I’ve been thinking, Pop, and I don’t think it’s the writing that’s getting you down. You’re experienced enough to know that you get bad times but you always bounce back. I think it might be to do with your body clock.’
Dear man – remember this is from someone who’s never been married before.

I nearly smote my forehead, like they do in films, and cried, ‘oh me!’ Instead I Googled ‘menopause and perimenopausal symptoms’. And guess what – they were all there. Including ‘loss of libido.’

This is something that has a touch of rather cruel irony to it. The hormone treatment that Himself had for prostate cancer meant that he had the equivalent of the menopause and had continual hot flushes. And because testosterone is responsible for producing prostate cancer, they have to knock that out, so he lost interest in sex.

You’d think that we could have synchronised a) our hot flushes and b) our loss of libido, wouldn’t you? And yet, just as he’s finished throwing off the duvet at 2am, I’m doing it, and all the while I was longing to get my leg over, he’s now going through the same thing.

I'd be most interested to hear others' experiences. What do you use for hot flushes? I'm reading up as I go and off to see the doc next week for more advice. Keep your pecker up, as they say.

Saturday 26 May 2007

Are there any male hygienists?

Since their rigorous cleaning, teeth are looking and feeling squeaky clean, to the extent that if I don't clean them after a meal, I start visualising all these Germs running round my teeth, skating and skidding on such pristine surfaces, like polished floors. 'Weee!!' they cry, 'what fun!' then freeze as they hear a horrible buzzing noise. 'What's that? Could it be -? oh, no - not the Electric Toothbrush,' and they fall over themselves in an attempt to flee the instrument of torture.
For the first time in ages, I feel able to smile with my mouth open, confident that while my teeth are still wonky, at least they're sparkling and wonky. Recently when talking to people, I've been sizing people's teeth up before I decide whether to reveal my fangs or not. If people have perfect teeth, I keep my mouth firmly shut and slope off. If their teeth are less than perfect, I sigh with relief and relax. Last week I was talking to another dog owner and couldn't take my eyes off her teeth. Crooked wasn't the word - these were like crazy paving. Which at least made me realise that I haven't got the worst teeth in the world.
Do you know of any male hygienists? A friend posted this comment yesterday, and it got me thinking - why aren't men drawn to this profession? Are there any male hygienists out there? This friend - who has just enrolled with the same dentist - had a great name for our hygienist - the Gum Matron. As I feel like a naughty schoolchild, this is extremely apt. I shall now sign off and go and use my mouthwash. Matron said I must.

Thursday 24 May 2007

The Tooth Torturer

I've survived both sessions of root cleaning my teeth which has eaten into my working day somewhat. But the main thing was, wimp that I am, it didn't hurt. The second lot of numbness has worn off and still no pain, though as I said to Himself, 'my mouth feels as if it's been scrubbed with a wire brush.'
'It has,' he said.

What do you think about while you're at the dentist? Do you shiver in apprehension and fear as he/she looms above you with a wopping great needle while you're strapped into the chair of torture, powerless to escape? Do you stare upwards, planning the week's shop? Wonder about a tricky bit of plot/how to cope with mother in law/problematic meeting later that day?

I started wondering a) whether she could tell from my teeth that I'd been a heavy smoker (I gave up 11 years ago, thankfully); b) what she could tell about my general state of health from my mouth and c) why on earth she wanted to spend all day looking in people's mouths.

I then wondered which was worse, spending all day treating gum disease or being a urologist and inspecting people's backsides. I think I'd rather do the former, but I did ask her why she was a hygienist. She looked vulnerable, suddenly, and said that she'd always been interested in teeth and that she hadn't wanted to be a dentist as she didn't want to make dentures and extract teeth. 'Besides, nowadays a hygienist have a much greater role,' she said. 'We can do crowns, temporary fillings, all that sort of thing.'
I couldn't quite share her enthusiasm, but said, 'so what's left for the dentists?'
She made a face and said, 'exactly,' which I found rather worrying.
But my job's very rewarding,' she said. 'Every patient has different problems, but it's wonderful to see them improve - like you.' And her face shone.
Each to their own, I dare say. I think I'll stick with words, though. I can't see the fascination in teeth, no matter how hard I try.

Wednesday 23 May 2007

Thumbs Up

First of all, Himself's news. His PSA count (which is basically what measures the level of cancer in the body) is 1.4 - an increase, but only a tiny one, so he doesn't have to go back on any medication just yet. Hoorary! What was astonishing, though, was the consultant who not only looked brown and - yes, smiling - but had lost a lot of weight. As a result, his face is the shape of a pear shaped egg, and he must have new glasses for I realised he has really long eyelashes - those delicate, feathery ones that would look tremendous with mascara. He was pleased with Himself's progress (as he should be) and not only smiled at him, but at me. I was lost for words (a rare occurrence) but suspect that he might even have a glimmer of a sense of humour, as he made what might pass as a joke. (Excuse me while I go and lie down.)
In the course of our Chat - which took precisely 3 minutes, I timed it, he revealed that he has been dealing with prostate cancer for over 20 years. Can you imagine it? No, I'd rather not.

I then went on to have this root cleaning business which, being done under anaesthetic, was like going to the hygienist - when they scrape away with that whizzer thing that sprays water everywhere. But obviously she dug a lot deeper (I won't let overactive imagination delve too deeply into that) and at the moment I feel fine. Mind you, I'm still numb. My perception could change in an hour or so when I can feel again. Time for a glass of wine methinks....

Tuesday 22 May 2007

A medical week

Tomorrow himself has his next cancer checkup, an event usually awaited with a certain amount of trepidation, for the results. This time, however, his condition has been stable for months so unless something has changed drastically, he should be all right. Still, there is always that margin of error ready to trip us up..... The consultant is short and very portly, like a balloon - so much so that I'm tempted to shove a needle in him to see if he'd deflate. He squints from behind very thick glasses that make you wonder how he can see at all without them (he probably can't). He obviously hates women, or considers them too lowly to be bothered with, as in the two years we've been seeing him, he has never once looked at me, let alone address a comment to me.
Mind you, come to think of it, he doesn't look at himself either - not sure what that says about either of them.
Following on from that appointment, we head back here and I have the first of two sessions (each an hour and a half long) to clean the roots of my teeth. For those of you that haven't followed this saga, I have had months of excruciating toothache leading to my paying a private periodontist (someone who specialises in gum disease) extortionate amounts of money in order to try and save my teeth. I'm trying hard not to think about this root cleaning business and have so far pushed it to the side of my brain where it lingers dangerously, like a hangover ready to pounce. I comfort myself with the fact that it is done under local anaesthetic (thank God), but even so, it's not something that I look forward to, and I rather suspect that once the numbness wears off, it will hurt like hell. Wimp, moi?
The only comfort I get from the prospect of all this is that it only has to be done once - well, with two appointments to do one side of the mouth each time. Then, Never Again.
In the meantime, outside the sky is a gentle blue, a sparrow is doing a jitterbug on the overhanging fuchsia tree, and I have a vase of sweet peas on my desk that smell like a promise.

Saturday 19 May 2007

Finding Maddy

We walked the dog this morning along a quiet headland surrounded by fading bluebells, campion, the last of the wild garlic and an abundance of golden buttercups, like drops of gold. Suddenly a heavy shower came along, and as we rounded the corner, we saw a man swathed in layers of clothing, packing up a tent. He avoided looking at us and, my imagination running riot, I called Mollie away hurriedly. After a quick sniff, she started and followed us, keen to be off.
A few minutes later we met two little girls, laughing and joking, and we walked on, expecting a parent to be with them. No parent arrived but we rounded another corner and met a woman camping with about four children; we asked if she had two daughters and she said yes. We explained about the dubious camper and she hurried off. She must be the only non-paranoid mother in the world at the moment; I hope her children are safe and well. The longer this nightmare goes on over poor little Madeleine, the sicker it makes me feel. This terrible story has become part of all of us, and we wait daily for some news - anything. There are too many questions - who, why, where, when, how? And no answers.

Just returned from spending an hour or so with elderly James - a re-run of his problems with his ancient music system which is knackered. We spent hours this week trying to find a cheapish CD player like ours to no avail - everywhere seems to have sold out. HImself spent another hour this morning on the phone ringing round and when we rang James he asked if we could go round and explain things to him. This is not as easy as it might sound.
He thought he could play CDs on the video recorder in the kitchen, and when we went next door to look at the television, he looked at it blankly and said, 'what's that?' It's hard not to cry - he's so helpless and vulnerable, like a toddler, and equally likely to fall over. And yet he's so trusting, and life must be so frustrating for him. It makes me think, I don't want to get old. Don't let me be like this.
When we finally left, having explained things over and over again, we were no further forward onthe music front than we were a week ago, but at least he's able to laugh at himself, dear man.

Thursday 17 May 2007

Maria McCarthy - Du Maurier festival

Husband had sufficiently recovered to accompany me on the jaunt up to Fowey today, so we headed straight to see what had happened to Jane's cottage. To our surprise it hadn't been renovated (or sold, by the look of it), but looks as it was last time we saw it - falling down. Someone has smashed the kitchen window which is now boarded up at the back and it looked so so sad and decrepit, with lace curtains at the windows (Jane must be turning in her grave) - not at all like the friendly refuge it's always been in my time. Such a shame that it's not lived in. But presumably the children have decided to hang on to it for a while and are paying an agent to look after it.
Fowey itself looks posher every time we go with more designer boutiques everywhere - a far cry from the days of recession when I lived there. Good for the town, possibly, but I wonder what the locals think. The only person I saw that I knew was Richard Kittow, the butcher (and a distant relative).
Maria's talk was in the town hall and well attended - she gave loads of information, and is a very dynamic lady who talks just like my friend V from Exeter. Maria's a very good speaker and as a result, I've had more ideas for future articles which is encouraging. I also bought a copy of her book - The Girls' Guide to Losing Your L Plates - how to pass your driving test, which I'm looking forward to reading. It's 25 years since I passed my test, and I'm sure it's much more difficult (and expensive) now so it will be interesting to read it.
The talk finished half an hour later than I'd thought, so I legged it back up the steep hill to the top car park where Pip and Mollie were sitting out on a patch of grass in the sunshine. God, I'd forgotten how steep that hill is, but we drove round to the Rashleigh at Polkerris in beautiful sunshine driving through leafy lanes down to the beach and a wonderful view of St Austell Bay. Having got to the pub, we were told that they don't allow dogs inside so we got a table outside (in howling gale) and I went in to see what food was on offer. Himself is on this yeast free diet for this month in order to determine if he's allergic to yeast and I had a nasty feeling it could be tricky eating out for him. I did suggest that we took some ryvita but that idea was vetoed as he thought I was trying to get out of buying lunch. As if!
Sure enough, I could see nothing suitable for him on the menu. 'Don't be silly, Pop,' he said and went in to check. Five minutes later he came out with bottom lip protruding. 'There's nothing I can eat, Pop,' he said.
I managed not to say Told You So, and we went opposite to a beach cafe that used to be a takeaway place but now calls itself an Italian restaurant, but looks the same as it did 15 years ago. It was suspiciously empty (the pub was heaving) but they said Mollie could come in and as they had jacket potatoes on the menu (that HImself could eat), we ordered and sat down inside and passed the time looking at three flies, dive bombing the window. Several of my friends wouldn't have gone near the place on the grounds of hygiene but with blood sugar like mine I wasn't being fussy.
We were joined by an army of walkers who ordered tea and food and disappeared outside with much hilarity. After about half an hour later (how long does it take to make a sandwich and microwave a jacket spud?) by which time my blood sugar level was on the floor and I was ready to eat the table, I watched the chef disappear outside with Our Food. He looked somewhat bemused when I legged it outside, waving and screaming, wrenched it out of his hands and hurried inside. So much for my offer of lunch.
By the time we left, the sun was blazing and we headed over to Par Beach where Mollie and I had a wonderful scamper along the beach for an hour while Himself dozed in the car. (He's still very weak poor fellow so I'm not bullying him just yet.) I'd forgotten how huge the beach is - a vast expanse of sand which was ribbed yesterday and full of salt water pools that were warm to paddle in. Mollie had a grand time charging in and out of the water, chasing seagulls and playing with any other dog that would let her, and arrived back wet and happy.
As I write, Himself and Mollie are stretched out on the sofa, fast asleep. So much emotion for one day, and it's only four thirty.....

Wednesday 16 May 2007

Daphne du Maurier festival

Husband is making a slow recovery, but had a few gins last night so is evidently improving. Poor fellow's face has caved in, he's lost half a stone in three days and his voice is gravelly and painful sounding. But he insists he's getting better, though he's extremely weak.
Tomorrow I am booked into a talk with Maria Macarthy, another writer and member of the Romantic Novelists Association. She's giving a talk on getting published (articles, principally, I think) at the Daphne du Maurier festival in Fowey, which couldn't come at a better time, as I'm having No Luck trying to sell the current batch of articles. The idea was that we should have a Family Day Out, as the walking's wonderful up there, and Pip and Mollie can have a walk/cup of coffee while I go to Maria's talk, then we check out Fowey and see what happened to our dear friend Jane's cottage. Sadly Jane died 2 years ago - she was an amazing woman who lived in an incredible cottage in Readymoney Cove crammed full of relics of her past. As her children live in the States, I presume they've sold the house but it will be interesting (or heartbreaking) to see what's happened to it. I suspect yet another second home, but don't get me started on Second Homes....
I'm concerned that Himself won't be up to this day out, but he looked at me yesterday and said, 'If Flowerpot's buying lunch, I'm getting there even if it's in an ambulance.'
So it looks like we're going to have lunch at the Rashleigh pub in Polkerris. In fact I did (rashly) suggest this some time ago, as I've set the current novel in Fowey and it will be good research. Added to which, the last time we went to that pub was our very first weekend together, when we were courting. So, bowels permitting (sorry to be so graphic), we'll be in Fowey tomorrow. If not, I shall go toute seule.

Monday 14 May 2007

Cornish Florence Nightingale

Around me everyone is sleeping. In the front room, husband is lying on the sofa, underneath the duvet, worn out by his tummy upset. Beside him sleeps Mollie, a sucker for any duvet, as she's not allowed to sleep on our bed. She was also sick this morning, but a polite little pile by the kitchen door, easy to clear up. Next door, in our bedroom, Bussie lies on a shirt of mine, curled up with an intense expression of deep sleep. I'm the only one awake.
Outside the wind flaps towels and jumpers on the line, the sun hot against my cheek. Peace - I can get on with some work.

Sunday 13 May 2007

Success! Or mostly...

The Fountain Inn at Mevagissey was a great success. They not only take dogs but gave us a room with a private patio so Mollie could go out and have a wee (and even better, I didn't have to get dressed and take her out in the pouring rain at 6am after her breakfast).
The pub is the oldest pub in Mevagissey - the father of all pubs, apparently, and found down a tiny alley not far from the harbour. Mind you, nowhere's far from the harbour. We were greeted by a large tabby cat who swore volubly at Mollie and hissed until she retreated. Realising that she was on foreign turf, Moll behaved herself, but the cat - who turned out to be called Badger - was most miffed at having to share his kingdom with a mere dog. I had to scoop Mollie up in order to get past Badger and up to our room, and Badger evidently told his mates, because in a few minutes two other cats had come to have a look. They didn't think much of the scruffy dog ("the hair - just look at it! Doesn't it ever brush? Or wash. My dear, how disgusting") and doubtless disappeared to stick pins in effigies of small dogs.
Husband had been complaining of feeling bilious but after a few drinks, his steak seemed to go down well and my stir fried prawns were delicious. We explored the village later, had a wander round the harbour and Moll had a dash along the beach, then we went to another pub for a nightcap. Unfortunately they were just about to start the karaoke which Himself can't stand, so we downed drinks and went back to the Fountain and watched the end of the programme on Daphne du Maurier (very disappointing) before crashing out. Mollie gave a few brief barks but apart from that we all slept right through.
This morning things went downhill. The bright evening was replaced by torrential rain, so bad that Ten Tors had to be cancelled. Then Pip's stomach decided to make it quite clear that yesterday's food had been a mistake. He felt very wobbly indeed but luckily we made it home so that he could dash to the bathroom. He's now sitting underneath the duvet watching The Alamo with a large bottle of water (not his usual tipple), hasn't even mentioned alcohol, and even said he might not eat tonight, so the poor thing must be feeling poorly.
As most of my clothes were wet from walking Moll this morning (it only took ten minutes to get soaked) and needed washing, I shoved them all in the washing machine. Later the sun made a brief appearance so I hung the washing out, returned inside - and realised that I'd trodden dog poo all through the flat.
Disasters aside, it was lovely to get away for a night in such a friendly Proper Pub that is also cat and dog friendly. We'll definitely go back there again.

Saturday 12 May 2007

An overnight celebration?

We spent several hours this morning with our elderly friend whose music system had broken down. We borrowed an old transformer from my brother in law then went off to try and fix the broken one. Poor James is so confused but after an hour and a half of getting nowhere we suggested that we get him a CD/tape/radio all in one that will be much easier for him to . He brightened visibly at the prospect of this, particularly when we said we'd show him how to use it. 'I can't think why you're so kind to me,' he said, I gave him a big hug and said, 'because we love you.' He returned the hug fiercely and we left him standing on the doorstep like a small boy. Lost and confused.
This afternoon we are heading off to a dog friendly pub in Mevagissey for the night as a delayed wedding anniversary celebration. The last time we did this (over a year ago) was not a success as Mollie decided she didnt like people coming in late at night and started barking. (She is not a barky dog, usually.) Suffice it t say that neither of us slept much - I lay there, rigid in case she started barking again, though she calmed down when everyone else went to sleep. At some point in the night or early morning, I stumbled to the loo and realised that Mollie had weed on the carpet. Again, not something that she ever does unless she's frightened or over excited. Luckily we'd brought some kitchen towels so I scrubbed at the offending patch until it was late enough for me to turn the hairdryer on (thoughtfully provided by the B&B) to dry it up. By the time I'd finished it looked as if it would pass muster and we crept downstairs to put Mollie in the car so we could have breakfast.
All in all it was a somewhat tiring weekend and put us off doing it again. I can only hope she behaves herself this time. It's an expensive way to lack sleep.

Friday 11 May 2007

Mating Seagulls

Female seagulls never look as if they're having much fun when they mate - you can almost see them standing there, groaning, saying, 'oh, if you MUST. Get on with it, then.' But after weeks of frantic squawking and wing flapping (they do a lot of that when mating), our seagulls are nesting on the roof opposite, as they do every year.
My sister in law, who lives in Vermont, comes over every other year and charts the seagull family's progress. As she's not coming over till next year, and I know she reads this blog religiously, I will keep her posted, maybe with pictures as well.
Husband is one of the few people on the planet who adores seagulls (he used to have one called Bead who went fishing with him every day) and last night was seen feeding Mr Seagull dog biscuits out of the window. I gave him a Look and he said defensively, 'but it's raining, Pop, and he's got a family to bring up.' You can't argue with that, so I turned a blind eye to Mr Seagull trampling over my rain flattened pansies and trained the binoculars instead on Mrs Seagull, who is sitting on her usual nest. It must get incredibly boring sitting there for six weeks, not able to stretch her legs at all. I'd go demented. And then, when the eggs have hatched, she must live in a constant state of terror that someone or something is going to eat her babies. What a life - makes me very glad I'm not a seagull. Still, it would be lovely to fly.....

Wednesday 9 May 2007

Hot Wired of Cornwall

It seems ironic that last week, when I needed bucketloads of energy to get through the show, I was exhausted, and now I'm hotwired, stuck in overdrive. I tried diverting my brain from Oliver songs to singing along to Gloria (the one by Vivaldi), one of my favourite pieces of classical music. But last night the opening seemed like a sedate matron plus her entourage, as opposed to the vibrant, clamouring family of Lionel Bart's creation. Later on, Gloria revved up superbly, of course, but you can't really compare the two.

I'm diverting my energies into the maze that is my current novel. As always I go between depths of despair and faint sparks of hope that this one might be good enough to be published. At the moment I'm hovering between the two, but we have our weekly writing meeting this afternoon which is always encouraging.

We went to a May Day fair on Monday where a friend of mine (from Oliver) had a stall selling her glass fusion jewellery. This is when I should give a link to her website, but she doesn't have one, so I will attempt to describe the very beautiful pendant she gave me. It's oblong with 6 different coloured pieces of glass that change colour according to their background and can be worn with just about anything. It's so beautiful, like a piece of brightly stained glass on a grey winter's day. Pip gave her a pendant that he made from Cornish tin, so they now have a mutual admiration society which could benefit all of us if we tackle it right. Sue was crouched over her stall in the rain when we got there, with a garland of bluebells and campion in her hair which she has recently had dyed emerald and blue - very fetching. Luckily the sun came out so the fire eaters could be enjoyed and the kids danced round the maypole and, best of all, and she sold enough to buy her family a Chinese takeaway.

Another phone call about our elderly friend, James, who is increasingly upset and worried about his daughter. 'She's lost interest in me,' he said to a friend yesterday. 'She just wants to put me in a home.' The trouble is, it seems to be true, and for those of us that love James, it's so difficult to know what to say. So we go round in circles, doing our best to care for him and give him a big hug. Not the same as coming from his family, but it's the most we can do. Being married to a Much Older Man (18 years older), I try not to think about Getting Older too much. At least, god willing, I shall be here to care for Pip. Who will care for me is another matter.

On that cheerful note, I shall finish for the moment but with a plus. My youngest brother, another singer, had a wonderful concert on Sunday singing Rio Grande. He has an incredibly inspirational singing teacher called Lynn whose website I shall post on the links section. He is like me, enthused and wired and longing for more. Hooray for singing. And on with the novel.

Tuesday 8 May 2007

Back to reality

Glad to get up and get going this morning. Couldn't relax or concentrate on anything last night so ended up taking Mollie for a walk at 10pm - brain still roaring with music. Today early start as Pip and Joe have to be at work at 8.30 for the next few days doing a demolition job. Pip isn't looking forward to it and Joe is not always the most cheery of companions. The other day he was bemoaning his gas bill and Pip said, 'one of the depressing facts of life, bills.'
'That and death,' said Joe. So you can see Pip's in for a week of great hilarity.
Very windy but sunny now so good for Helston Flora Day - that's another tune that's going through my head right now but makes a change from Oliver. Just realised that I have four novel writing competitions to enter by the end of this month so I must get my head down and edit current novel. Also resend out articles - having had a good stretch of selling some, have hit a desert where no one wants to buy any of them. Very depressing but perseverance is needed. Good to have a focus after the past few weeks. Onwards!

Monday 7 May 2007

It's Over!

Well – it’s over! Saturday was quite a day but with fabulous audiences who cheered and clapped and sang along in all the right places. For some reason, knowing Deb, Freya and Louis were in the audience made it all the more poignant and reduced me to tears for most of the time I was on stage, but I managed to do my bit and they all loved it. They came back stage afterwards – eyes growing larger and larger – and then Pip picked me up, we came home and ate and went off again.

Just standing in the dressing room, hearing “ten minutes, everyone, ten minutes,” will always make me tingle, I think. Even when he followed it with, ‘and can you lot get going tonight, because I want to get to the bar.’. Alcohol started to flow backstage in the evening – port being the main drink, and at the interval we all shared a bottle of Cava which meant about half a teaspoon each but was enough for me.

I was worried about what Pip and David and Jenny would think of it but they thoroughly enjoyed it as well – the show got better and better so I was glad they came on the last night – and we all had a drink afterwards in the bar which turned into an after show party. In fact they had to drive home to Penzance so they didn’t stay long, and we left at midnight. Two glasses of wine went straight to my head and we headed home and fell into bed.

It was one of the best experiences I’ve had and I’m very grateful that I was able to participate in it – particularly as I wasn’t even there for casting. At the beginning of the week I didn’t know how I’d get through it, but every evening was different and I started enjoying it more and more. I think we all did, as we became more confident and saw the show improving.

I’m now feeling very discombobulated. (Can’t think where that word came from but it will do.) I can’t imagine that it’s all over, and I have the soundtrack running round my head with ever increasing frequency, while Pip walks round humming jazz tunes. A very musical household. It’s as if Oliver is now in my bloodstream, and I can’t conceive that That’s It. Or that it will be November before we start another one – how will I cope? We are all meeting for a drink the week after next, and I daresay everyone else will be feeling the same way, but I can see exactly why people go from one show to the next. It really does get in your blood.

Now I really must get back to my poor neglected novel.....

Saturday 5 May 2007

Last Night and Wedding Anniversary

The doorbell rang this morning at 8.30 and a friend arrived with a pot of basil as a thank you for taking her to the doctor yesterday. A journey that should have taken 20 mins took the best part of an hour due to a car crash but the lanes looked wonderful, so it was quiet a scenic route, even if poor Claire was worried about being late. She wasn't in fact but it was a lovely start to the day.
Last night the Oliver that had to be retired the other night was due to take up the role. I was desperately worried about the poor lad, aged 11, who was suffering with a bad cold and severe stage fright - having had to relinquish the role once, I was so worried that he wouldn't be able to take it up again (like getting on a bike once you've fallen off), and I stood in the wings, biting my non existent nails while I waited to see how he'd cope. I'm delighted to say that he was brilliant - oh, joys! And I stood and wept, quietly, with relief. It did occur to me later that I seemed to be the only person worried about him - me a new Girl - but I'm sure that wasn't the case. But if I was that worried, what about his mother? Oliver is an exhausting role as he's on stage most of the time, to say nothing of the running around involved, but he did a wonderful job and got huge applause at the end which was very gratifying.
Meanwhile temperaments abound between the divas with the main roles, the Old Gang who've been in every show since the year dot and ignore us lowly chorus lot, and us newbies who sit in a corner and natter. Being very overtired and somewhat weepy this morning, I mentioned this to husband who reminded me that that sort of behaviour usually stems from intense insecurity and, when performing is involved, stress, nerves and competitiveness. Dear man - he is very good at putting my mind to rest.
Today is our eighth wedding anniversary (I actually thought it was 7th and had to correct his card at breakfast time) but I won't see much of him as he's gone off to practise the trumpet this morning and I've got a matinee (my dear mate Deb is bringing her grandchildren) and then the evening performance later. At least he's coming to that, with our thespian cousins from Penzance - the harshest critics of all, so I will doubtless be in a terrible state of nerves and trip over on stage. Oh well, at least I can have a large drink afterwards without having to worry about driving home.
And tomorrow it will all be over and the forecast is for cold and rain. Doubtless I shall feel flat and weepy due to extreme exhaustion and having run out of adrenaline. But at least I shall be able to get back to editing my novel which will be a relief, and seeing my friends (and husband) again - other than in the theatre bar. And Mollie will be delighted to have some longer walks again - I've had to ration my energies this week which she doesn't find at all amusing.

Friday 4 May 2007

Publishing and the theatre

Given how much many of us enjoy the theatre, it seems strange that publishers apparently refuse books with a theatrical background. Several years ago I wrote one about a dancer called Roz and was told that despite having a good strong theme, etc, no publisher would touch it. Why? Presumably because they think it wouldn't sell. Personally, I love anything about dancers or actors - after all, we've all been in something, even if it's only the school play.

Last night there were no disasters other than the smoke machine being positioned right by my skirt in the Oom Pah Pah scene. As I have to stand still in that number, it meant that clouds of smoke were soon billowing up causing me, Paul and Demelza to start wheezing and choking as we sung. This was closely followed by Bil Sykes' number, My Name, where we have to stand, terrified, in case he pounces on us. In this instance, trying not to choke as more smoke ushered forth.
Still, two friends came and loved it. 'I never thought it would be so PROFESSIONAL!!!!' said Viv (she talks like that, in capital letters). Luckily she said that when the director was standing right next to us, so that was good. Incredibly gratifying when someone is that enthusiastic - like someone saying how wonderful your son/daughter is. Stayed on to have a drink with them after the show so once again crept in at 11.30pm to a frenetic greeting from Mollie and husband muttering in bed. I'll really miss this show.
I reminded husband that he would have his wife back as of Sunday and he grunted. 'Think I'd better find another show for you,' he said. Not sure if this is a compliment or not.....

Very good writing meeting this morning but a fraught journey back. I was trying to get Claire (other writing mate) back to Penryn to the doctor when we hit a road blockage caused by an accident just outside Truro. We then drove for the next 45 mins round the lanes trying to get to Penryn the back way. Made it just 5 minutes late but both feeling somewhat frazzled. Still, the hedges do look wonderful....

Thursday 3 May 2007

First Night, Party with the Mayor

First Night went well with remarkably few hiccups (that I noticed). The audience was a bit slow to get going but then got in the swing of things and were fantastic. What a relief! Nancy has now taken to bringing a bottle of port into the dressing room because, she told us, her aunt said it’s good for the voice (and auntie’s a professional singer). Sounds good to me, though if I tried it, it would go straight to my head and I’d fall flat. Curiously I wasn’t nervous, but that was probably because I didn’t have anyone in the audience.

The mayor and local Bods came back stage for a party afterwards – hadn’t realised there’d be such a spread, though I was too high to eat and downed a (very small) glass of wine which instantly made me feel as if I’d consumed at least a bottle. As it was then 11pm (WELL past my bed time), I decided I’d better drive home. Very slowly, with the windows open and nervously on the look out for any You-Know-Who.

Tonight my mother is coming plus some cousins I haven’t seen for ages who live in Bournemouth but who are down here on holiday. Then my friend Nik is coming – she can sit next to Mum, and the dear girls from next door, so I shall have a full house. For me, that is. The plan is to have a drink in the bar after the show which will doubtless have the same effect. Life feels definitely askew this week, wrapped in shroud of unreality and it’s extremely difficult to concentrate so work is slowing to a trickle. Today the refrain from Oliver is, ‘I shall scream, Mr Bumble, I shall scream, scream, scream…’ I’m sure a psychologist would have a lot to say about that.

Second night went well and I realised what a difference it makes having friends in the audience. At one point I tried to find out where they were sitting and totally lost concentration. Shan’t do that again.

Poor Oliver 2, who is 11, had to let the other one take over half way through. He had terrible nerves and wasn’t feeling well either (he had a bad cold) and dissolved into tears every time he came off stage. He’s recently had the lead in a school production, so everyone knows he can do it but nerves got the better of him last night poor love and he had to retire to being one of Fagin’s Gang, though they both got a good curtain call. Talking to one of the younger members of the cast, she said that the younger Oliver is fine because he’s too young for stage fright, which apparently kicks in at around 10 or 11. You learn something new every day.

I’m loving it, but am getting more and more exhausted by day. By Sunday I will need to be scraped off the floor, I think.

Tuesday 1 May 2007

The greasepaint, the theatre, darling

First Night tonight – Gala Night, in fact which means that the mayor and other (are there any other?) local dignitaries are coming. The idea is that they come backstage afterwards for a glass of wine and a sarnie, apparently, but think the cast might be a bit thin on the ground as most of us have to either a) rush hyperactive son/daughter back to bed or b) go to work ourselves the next day. However, it will be interesting to see what happens.

Last night’s technical dress rehearsal with makeup went well although I had to keep my glasses on (not very Victorian). However, as I can’t see without them and am liable to fall arse over tit on the stage, it’s probably best to keep them on. I did consider a lorgnette, but it wouldn’t look right for the pub scenes, and I wouldn’t be able to dance with one either, so that’s out.

Last night went surprisingly well – admittedly the smoke alarm went off – repeatedly – when the smoke machine went into overdrive, which was in most of the scenes. Still, that apart it looks very atmospheric. It was our first night with the orchestra who are a little unsteady on their feet – or backsides – but that’s to be expected as they’ve never played with us before. And there was the small matter of several parents removing most of the cast of children at 8.30 (the show finishes at 10.30). But apart from that, all went well which makes me rather nervous – a bad dress rehearsal and all that.

I can see why this acting lark is so seductive. Not, I hasten to add, that I would like to have a Major Role – or certainly not at the moment. I’m quite happy being part of the chorus.

But the excitement starts in the dressing room, where 28 women are crammed into a tiny room, leaning over to grab makeup, transform faces into Victorian wenches/posh women/drunken harridans. Then it’s the costumes. In a few minutes, jeans are discarded, sweatshirts thrown on the floor and long dresses, blousy tops and mob caps change us modern women into well known flights of fantasy that, for this week, are all too real.

We step outside and meet Bill Sykes, square faced and taciturn, no longer joking dad of young Millie but a brutal murderer. Standing next to him is Fagin, with a grey wig and trailing red coat, muttering Jewish swear words. Not the kind hearted Jim who has a joke with everyone.

There’s something about standing in the wings, waiting to go on, while stage hands hurry to change scenery with muttered expletives in the dark, then on come the lights and the music starts up and I get goosebumps everywhere. When you step on stage, you’re hit by a glare of heat and light and the knowledge that out there is an Audience. That is quite a heady experience. They have come to watch us. That is even headier.

It’s also very much about doing something together. I’ve never been one to join groups of things – at least, I have, but I don’t have a group mentality, so I’ve always left choirs in the past. But this is something different. Apart from the staggering amount of hard work invested by all those involved in producing and directing the show, to say nothing of backstage help, costumes, makeup and props, there is the sense that we have made this show come together. Like a child, we have seen it grow from its faltering first steps through the lumbering adolescent period and now, like a debutante, it has its first Outing.

We are the parents and the deb all at once, nervous and shy, eager and terrified. We all want the show to do well, to have a good time, and, like a huge wave, we are all swept along with it. That is a feeling I’ve never experienced before, and it’s a worthwhile one to have. One of comeraderie, of sharing an experience that’s very special.

I dread to think what we’ll all feel like next week – flat and depressed, overtired and overwrought. And that’s just the children. The two playing Nancy and Bill Sykes are heading straight into rehearsals for another production, and you can understand why. Once you’ve been bitten, you don’t want it to stop.

Look at me!!!

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The Standoff

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