Friday 31 August 2007

Falling in Love

This wasn’t written to keep you in suspense – honest. But time was against us.

The good news is that Bussie is in love. The bad news is that he’s still not eating.

The object of his affections is, I would say, in her mid thirties with a very expensive looking wedding ring, (platinum at a guess), long dark hair, chocolate brown eyes and hands that stroke and beguile. She’s called Helena.

Green coated Helena met us at the vet last night, called, ‘Buster’, and instantly he was angelic submission. Never seen anything like it. It turns out he’s been in a bad fight, is covered in scabs (at least they’ve healed) and has an abscess and a temperature. No wonder he’s off his food.

Of course I was full of remorse that we should have taken him up earlier (particularly given Helena’s wonderful ministrations), but she said that it probably hadn’t made any difference. (I think she was being kind.)

So Bussie had a long term antibiotic jab, another one to reduce pain and anti-inflammatory and she hoped he’d start eating soon. If not, to bring him back on Saturday morning. (I’m going away for the weekend which could be tricky.) I left the vet nearly £50 worse off but glad that he was on the mend.

We got back and – hoorah! – Bussie had a very small bowlful of food. Since then he hasn’t had anything, not even water, so I’m worrying again, but at least he came in and slept on our bed last night (we’re keeping him in till lunchtime as advised by the lovely H, to his silent fury).

We got home then had to feed animals and change before being Taken Out for dinner at the Greenbank, a hotel at the bottom of the hill with a restaurant overlooking the harbour. The reason? A dear friend’s father is staying there and wanted to take his two daughters and us out to celebrate his birthday, which was last night. Well – how could we refuse? (And why would we?)

We were a bit late as Himself had to have several Large Ones before going out, ‘because I’ve been worried about Bussie, Pop.’ As if I hadn’t been. Just before we left, he split his wine all over the paper and over his new trousers. It looked as if he’d wet himself. I snorted unsympathetically while Himself mopped himself up and walked, rather stiff legged, down to the hotel.

We had a wonderful evening (trying not to look at the eye watering prices on the menu) and, fortified by excellent company, wonderful food, and the fact that he’d already had half a bottle of wine, Himself didn’t feel the need to overindulge in wine with dinner, but contented himself with a mere two or three glasses and thoroughly enjoyed himself. There was a moment, towards the end of the evening, when he started singing The Sheik of Arabi, which is always a dangerous moment, but Mel and I quickly shut him up and all was well.

So we didn’t get back till about 10.30 feeling utterly spoilt. It’s a long time since I’ve had such great food (I had beetroot and goats cheese souffle) and the wine was out of this world.

What was even better was that the animals hadn’t fallen out, and Bussie spent part of the night on our bed again. I just have to get him to eat now.

If we win the lottery I’ll take him down to the Greenbank and tempt him there. But I might have a Plan B just in case.

Thursday 30 August 2007

Claim to Fame

My first claim to fame – or the first one that I can remember – was at an office party in 1977 when I was working in London for Campaign magazine (THE magazine in the advertising industry) which might sound glamorous but wasn’t. I filed cuttings for most of the day in a tiny dark office (‘the library’) filled with grey filing cabinets.

The journalists, who worked next door in The News Room, terrified me, so at the office party, I skulked in a corner trying to look insignificant. I was 19, skinny and awkward, desperately shy. To my relief I spotted someone who looked as uncomfortable as I felt, and for some reason I went over and said hello.

‘Hello,’ he said, a great tall man with a shock of upstanding hair and big eyebrows. ‘My name’s Michael.’

We got chatting and I think he got me a drink and shortly after that I was rescued by Gay, the lady I worked with in the library.

‘What where you talking to Hes about?’ she said.


‘Hes,’ she said. ‘Michael Heseltine.’ She shook her head at the look of bemusement on my face. ‘He not only owns Campaign, but Haymarket Publishing.’

Oh, God.

On a note that has absolutely nothing to do with fame, I now have a furious Bussie shut in the kitchen. This is very Infra Dig and an infringement of his civil liberties. He will doubtless sue me when he can. But he hasn't eaten for a week now and having had a long chat with Ruth, the vet nurse, I'm taking him to the vet to be Looked At. Think of me at 5pm, by which time Bussie will be incandescent with rage.

Oh, God. Times Two.

Wednesday 29 August 2007


Lying in bed this morning, I listened to early morning sounds and was struck by how many there were. Like most of us, I suspect, I don’t often sit and just Listen. So this is what I heard.

Someone upstairs washing; the creak of water running through the pipes, the splash of water on face. The gurgle of water down the plug, tumbling down and hitting the drain with a sloshy swirl.

A car engine revving up, driving off. A hoot and screech of tyres as it stopped, missing something (I hoped).

The breathy gasps of an early morning orgasm. (A holiday maker upstairs – I know the layout of all the flats along here!)

The rattle of the catflap as Mollie barged back inside, terrified of missing something. The patter of paws on carpet as she hurried down the corridor. Silence, then a dignified belch from her breakfast.

Now, there’s just the quiet hum of my computer which is finally WORKING!!!

What can you hear?

Tuesday 28 August 2007

Elderly Advice

I’m still experiencing technical problems and have just spent an hour getting a very hot right ear while talking on the phone to an Indian lady (doubtless in Delhi) attempting to help my problem. She didn’t but technical support is arriving this afternoon so I hope he can help.

But enough of that. Bussie is improving daily and last night had a few biscuits which is better than nothing. He’s definitely getting more cuddly (and he’s never been cuddly at the best of times) so this is definitely progress.

As the past few days have been somewhat traumatic, what with itching dogs, missing cats and so on, I thought I’d give you a quote of the week from an elderly lady (eighty plus) who went on the Summer Sunshine cruise around the Mediterranean last year with her equally elderly husband.

As they approached the check in desk, he fumbled for the tickets and passports, rheumy blue eyes watering as his wife got ever more fractious.

‘For God’s sake,’ she said. ‘I told you not to put them in there.’ (You know the kind of thing.)

‘Ah – here they are,’ he said finally, and I gave them the necessary paperwork so that they could board. That necessitated further complications while he replaced their tickets in his bag.

‘He’s always like this,’ said his wife with a twinkle. ‘Takes us ages to get anywhere.’ But it was said without malice.

‘Shut up you old fool, let’s get on with our holiday,’ replied the husband as he lurched forwards, bumping into the next person in the queue, knocking sticks, suitcases and suit bags to the floor.

‘Blind as a bat,’ cried his wife cheerfully, steering him towards safety. When she’d grabbed him securely by the arm she looked back at me and winked. ‘Too much sex, you know.’

I had a smile on my face for the rest of the day.

Monday 27 August 2007

Awards and Cat Update

Many thanks indeed to The Rotten Correspondent (who is anything but) for two very special awards – The Thoughtful Blogger and Nice Matters. I have just spent what felt like hours trying to upload the s**ing images onto my blog but BT won’t let me. AAAGH. I have also spent another 2 hours on the phone talking to another BT engineer who had various suggestions but couldn’t fix the problem.

However, I am very honoured and grateful for the awards, which would look even nicer on my blog but we won’t go there. I suppose Bussie is in part responsible but as he is neither thoughtful nor nice, I won’t pass one on to him. I would pass on the honours but I’m having more problems than ever with BT today, so that will have to wait until I can contact other people again. Bear with me.

As promised, here’s the Cat Report. I’m glad to report that His Lordship is improving steadily which is more than can be said for my temper. Three times I’ve tried to add comments to my blog and each time BT has refused to publish them. So your comments are deeply appreciated – and I did respond individually, but you’ll have to take my word on that.

Bussie’s fan club was on the phone last night – his aunt from Vermont – yes, I did say Vermont. As in America (not Canada, as the local travel agent thought). And his uncle from the other side of Falmouth, both ringing to check on Bussie’s wellbeing. My sister in law (from Vermont), who is an avid reader of this blog, and has got all her friends onto it, spread the word apparently on Saturday night.

‘He’s back!’ she told all her friends. ‘Check out the blog!’ So news travelled far and wide. I hope Bussie appreciates how many people have been hanging on, wondering where the hell he is.

Since I last posted, he’s been in several times, and his eyes are back to normal and he’s much steadier on his feet. He’s still not eating but wanders over to Mollie’s water bowl, drinks from it and sits, as if he’s expecting something and isn’t sure what. I’ve tried offering him food but he won’t have it – not even his favourite tuna. So he must still be suffering.

He wanders in and sits in the kitchen (he won’t go any further and I’m not going to force him) as if he knows he’s come in for something and, like our elderly friend James, finds the words have disappeared. Perhaps he’s trying to find his old self and finds that he’s gone as well.

On the plus side, he could reinvent himself. I can see him, in a month’s time, giving lectures around the neighbourhood. ‘How to get over a car crash and reinvent your life!’ or ‘Bored with your life? Get a new one!’ He has that supercilious air that would make him a good lecturer.

Anyway, he’s been in and out three times this morning and it’s only 10.30, and just now we had a tummy rub in the sunshine and a deep throated PURR, so I’m much encouraged and deeply relieved.

In case you think Moll has been forgotten, far from it. With this wonderful weather, we’ve been swimming twice and she’s had a whale of a time. So good, in fact, that she adopted Bussie’s entrance to the garden – which involves a series of wooden springboards that Himself made – and escaped early this morning. Luckily I have good hearing and heard strange claws on the wood outside. I jumped out of bed and sure enough, there was Mollie half way up the steps. She looked somewhat abashed that her adventuring had been cut short but came back with a good grace. We’ve now had to remove the bottom rung so that her Ladyship can’t flee the nest. One animal going walkabouts is quite enough for one week.

Enjoy the Bank Holiday, everyone, as I will now my family’s coming home to roost.
Just don't mention BT....

Sunday 26 August 2007

Empty Nest Syndrome?

Sorry to any non cat lovers who probably fled this blog long ago. But I felt I should tell you how his Lordship reappeared yesterday.

I’d just been ringing Dog Sniffers. In case any of you want to contact them, the police have a great source of dog sniffers but they won’t help find lost pets, the WPC told me. Considerately but firmly. So I rang K9 Dog Sniffers and eventually talked to a fellow on a very crackly mobile.

‘I need help finding my lost cat,’ I said. ‘I’m in Cornwall.’
There was a silence while I could tell what he was thinking. It was to do with women and idiots, with a generous helping of F words interspersed in between.

‘We charge £75 an hour,’ he said. ‘A minimum of four hours. Plus travel and expenses.’ Silence. ‘And we’re in the North East.’
You could tell he wasn’t exactly keen on the job, and even by my maths this was going to turn out expensive, so I thanked him and put the phone down.
Shortly after that, Himself came back and we were standing outside wondering what to do about Bussie when Himself looked round.
‘B**ger me,’ he said. ‘There he is.’
I ran next door, followed by Himself who scooped up Bussie and brought him home.

Well, you know the rest – he didn’t stay long and disappeared. I had a terrible feeling that he’d gone for good. OK, so he’s 7 which in cat years makes him – well, same age as me. Isn’t it time he left home, you might say? But he’s a cat, and I want him at home, I wanted to shout. It’s incredibly hurtful when someone you love turns their back on you. (You can tell I’m a frustrated mother – my wavering hormones having one last stab.)

Bussie didn’t return last night and by this morning I had a sense of doom about it all. He’d moved on. Found somewhere else to live. Doesn’t want us any more. And suddenly, as I was cooking eggs for breakfast this morning, it all erupted and fat hot tears slid down my face into the boiling water. I wept for the loss of my Bussie, for the fact that I’d failed him somehow and he didn’t love me any more. And I cried because I wouldn’t ever stop him doing what he wanted, but I wanted him to come home.

‘For God’s sake,’ said Himself. ‘Can’t you just be happy that he’s OK instead of being depressed about it? You can’t keep a cat prisoner.’

‘I know,’ I said but I couldn’t stop then. The last five days of worry came pouring out in a hiccupping torrent.

Himself gave me a hug then, and after a while I calmed down and tried to reconcile myself to the fact that we’d lost Bussie. He’d chosen to go, and I must go along with that. Perhaps, I thought hopefully, he’d fallen in love? I could forgive him for leaving if he had.

I’ve had cats all my life, apart from a few years in London, and I hate living without them. They represent my quiet, secret part. I need them, I know, far more than they need me. But I didn’t say anything to Himself. He’d made it clear the subject of cats was Closed. So I came back from walking Mollie feeling dejected, rejected and resigned. And guess who was sitting in the hall?

‘BUSTINGTON!’ I cried, and swooped over to see him, fresh tears plopping onto his coat. (‘Oh God,’ said Himself. ‘You’re supposed to be happy.’ ‘I am,’ I wept. There are some things that some people just don’t understand.)

He’s not himself. Bussie I mean. I reckon he’s had a bump from a car. His pupils are tiny slits, and he’s very doddery, poor fellow. His balance is wobbly and his right flank is wet and grubby and he’s usually so fastidious.

So I feel worse and better. Worse because he’s vulnerable and isn’t eating – or perhaps he’s being fed elsewhere? He hasn’t lost weight (and he could do with losing some) but he certainly isn’t himself. I worry that one particularly schizoid cat in the street will realise how wobbly Bussie is and attack him (she has before). But he’s lived mostly on the streets for 7 years. He’ll lie low until he feels better, I hope. And he knows where we are, even if he isn’t sure who we are.

I feel better because he’s alive and even if he’s concussed, he came home of his own volition and he knows I love him. He probably doesn’t care, but it makes me feel better.

Saturday 25 August 2007

A Fleeting Visit

He's back! Found in the next door garden would you believe, drinking from their pond. (Why didnt he come home and have a drink?) He was so thirsty he drank Mollie's entire water bowl, sat in for a while and then departed. We shut him in but reckoned he'd be bursting after a while, and if he wants to go, well, who's to stop a cat?

So at least he's safe and well, back leg apparently fine, not limping. I fear he might have developed a taste for the nomadic life but if he does, at least he knows where we are. We think he might have been shut in one of the holiday lets nearby, which would account for this raging thirst. Mind you, he didnt seem particularly pleased to see us. Why didn't he come home? Has he developed amnesia?

Enough, Flowerpot. I'm off to pour a glass of wine to celebrate the prodigal's return, even if it was only fleeting. If we have a nomadic cat, so be it. Cheers, everyone!


No, no news but we’re trying to be positive. Perhaps he is lying smugly on someone’s bed, being fed tuna on a silver spoon. (In which case, why not come home?) Perhaps he couldn’t wriggle away because of his bad leg. Perhaps he’s locked in someone’s garage. You can go mad speculating, so I try not to.

At least some decent weather helps; Bussie will be warm and dry, wherever he is. As Breadbox said, it’s the not knowing that’s so frustrating. You can’t do anything if you don’t know what’s happened, can’t move forwards. I can only hope that my Bussie is safe, and that he’ll come home soon. Whoever can tell what a cat’s thinking?

But thank you so much for all your support. Not just from people I ‘know’, but from those I have never met before. When I read Lesley’s second comment just now I felt blessed that so many people have taken the trouble to say they care. It means more than I can say and brings back faith that despite what happens, often unaccountably, there is a brighter side to life.

I’m sorry I’m not able to thank you all owing to a very wobbly Broadband connection. I spent nearly two hours on the phone to some BT fellow whose grasp of the English language wasn’t too good and spoke very quietly, so I kept shouting, ‘SORRY, COULD YOU SPEAK UP?’ down the phone. He failed to solve the problem, but apparently the problems is caused by BT upgrading our Broadband connection. No, it doesn’t make any sense to me, either.

So for the next week I could be having a wobbly Broadband connection which means I may not be able to thank you all personally, and visit your blogs. Bear with me. I will keep you posted – it just takes hours to add a comment on my own blog, let alone anyone else’s.

(While I don’t want to wish my life away, I can’t help thinking I’ll almost be glad when this week’s over.)

On a brighter note, I see from the Western Morning News yesterday that Bilbo, a Newfoundland accompanying his lifeguard owner at Sennen Cove, managed to save a Dutch tourist’s life. Weighing 12 stone, Bilbo tried to stop Lein Snippe from entering the water. When that didn’t work, he swam out so that she could see how hard it was for him to get back.

‘It was incredible,’ said Lein. ‘It was almost like he was talking to me.’

I was hoping to end with a cheerful cat story, but I can’t quite see a cat diving into the surf. On the other hand, I’d never be surprised by a cat’s capabilities. And Bussie, if nothing else is a prima donna. He loves the limelight. So come home soon, Bussie. You’re famous now.

Friday 24 August 2007


Bussie went missing on Tuesday evening, having injured his back leg. He came down and told us about it, of course, yowling vociferously. We had a good look at it, and it didn’t look broken – just sprained. But he was obviously in pain, poor thing, and curled up on the bunks in the hall (his favourite place) and had his tea brought to him. I had to go out to a meeting later but Pip kept checking him - and suddenly he was gone.

He hasn’t been seen since, and this isn’t a wandering cat, but a spoilt only son. He always comes home for meals, adores his creature comforts.

Himself says, ‘He’ll be back in the morning/evening/lunchtime,’ repeating it like a mantra. I'm silent, feeling sick, my imagination working overtime.

Meanwhile we patrol the streets like ghosts, calling and calling him, dropping leaflets into neighbouring houses as it got dark last night. I've rung the local radio station, been to the vets, told all our friends nearby. We come home and look at the bunks, accusingly empty. His bowl of biscuits, untouched.

What really worries me is that he’s in pain and alone - I can’t bear to think of any animal, particularly my Bussie, suffering. Where on earth is he?

Wednesday 22 August 2007

Three Beautiful Things (and stuff)

The Thinker posted today about counting our blessings, or 3 Beautiful Things. So here are some of mine, to get us in a good mood on a beautiful sunny morning.

1. The view from my living room window. We look out on Flushing, a small village on the opposite side of the Fal river, which gets the sun all afternoon and evening (when there is any of course.) To the right of Flushing is Kiln Beach, then Trefusis Head, perfect for dog walkers. In front of that is the river, studded with yachts on moorings, the tiny ferry that goes from Flushing to Falmouth, carrying children to school. Today there’s a northerly wind ruffling the waves, splashing the sea gulls perched on visiting yachts. Further in the distance, round to the right, is the headland to the left of St Mawes, more dog walking heaven of green fields and trees with not a cafĂ© in sight. To the far right of that is Falmouth Docks, a hive of industry (when all’s well) and a bussle of RFA ships, cruise ships and private yachts.

2. The soft perfume of a ripe nectarine (or peach), the soft yielding flesh as you bite into it, and the sweetness of the juice as it dribbles down your chin. You can tell my favourite fruit.

3. The sheer abandoned joy of Mollie, flying through a field of long grass with her ears flying, or splashing into the sea to swim out and retrieve a stick. Dogs can teach us so much about how to just get on and enjoy life.

On that note, many thanks to you all for your help and comments re Mollie’s itching which, touch wood, is a bit better today. Further and even more thanks to Eurodog for Plan B if it doesn’t clear up.

Tomorrow I am back working as a Port Rep – a fancy title for checking people in to the Van Gogh, a cruise ship that provides cheap(ish) cruises out of Falmouth. It used to be a reliable form of income but like so many companies, they have had to make extreme cutbacks. For work we have to wear a black suit, white shirt and red scarf (the latter items provided by the company). When they brought this rule in several years ago, I couldn't find anything to fit me so ended up getting a 13 year old's school uniform from Asda. Its shiny blackness sets me apart, I like to think, though perhaps not in the way that was intended.

But I digress. First part of check-in takes place in the Maritime Museum, for passengers arriving by coach. This lot have frequently travelled from as far as Scotland and are cranky and stiff when they arrive. The second part, for those arriving by car, takes place in a marquee down at the docks which will be cold and windy, as ever.

You’d think that people going on holiday would be cheerful, but it’s amazing how many are grumpy as hell. Still, it provides good copy - some great one liners.

Now, what are your Three Beautiful Things?

Tuesday 21 August 2007

Itching Babies and Elderly confusion

I posted the novel off yesterday and as I left the corner post office my heart lurched with a mixture of panic and fear, as if I’d thrown my precious work as far as I could over the sea, and was watching it twisting and curling, hurtling further and further away from me. But we won’t go there – all I can do is wait now and get on with other writings.

On the subject of my other baby, we took Moll to the vet this morning after a largely sleepless night (me) as she was scratching and itching nearly all night. So I’m a bit grainy eyed and weary this morning. I’ve been taking her twice weekly to the vet to get her more used to it out of surgery hours, and she was a bit better but still got into a panic which upsets me no end. Which in turn won’t help her. Anyway, the vet thinks it might be fleas (though there’s no sign of fleas) or dermatitis, so she’s had her next lot of Stronghold.

For other pet owners, there’s a really bad infestation of fleas this year, so if your animals are itching, get some flea stuff and spray the whole house (I’ve just done that and am sitting with the windows open to try and ventilate the place).

But back to other matters. We took our elderly friend for coffee on Saturday again. Having had ten days in the new residential home, he looked surprisingly well; his eyes were clear and his face was more relaxed and he seemed in much better spirits than he has done for a long time. Though he doesn’t like the other people –says they’re not friendly. And the only other man is nearly blind and can’t speak. Not ideal for someone who likes a good natter.

While we were out, James said, ‘You know, I’m a founder member of –’ and then stopped as the necessary word had evidently flown the coop. ‘Founder member,’ he said, looking puzzled. Where had that word gone?

‘A club?’ I said.

‘Yes!’ he brightened. ‘You know – women – and racing.’

I looked at Himself. He looked at me. Women’s Formula One, I wondered? Women’s athletics?

‘You know,’ James said, evidently frustrated. And he mimed rowing.

‘Oh, gigs!’ we cried.

Yes – he was one of the former members of the Flushing/Mylor Gig Rowing Club. Phew.

As we left the building he took me to one side and pointed proudly to Himself. ‘I just want you to know that this man is a - a –’ and once again that sodding word would not come. ‘A success,’ he said, as if he knew it wasn't the right word but hoped it would do.

‘I know,’ I said. I got the gist, and was extremely proud to be married to – whatever he was.

Monday 20 August 2007

Awards, Novels and Itching

First of all, many thanks to the rotten correspondent for her award of Creative Blogger. I am extremely honoured and grateful; very ego boosting start to the week.
I will pass this on to other bloggers in a day or two when I've had time to have a trawl.

Also many thanks for all those encouraging comments about my meanderings on writing fiction. I would like to clarify that I have not yet had a novel published (god dammit to hell) but one of these days I will. Unfortunately the decision whether to publish a book these days is nowadays down to the Marketing department and has less to do with the writing itself. Yes, I can write (all of us bloggers can do that) but nowadays unless an agent and publisher is convinced that what you write will sell, you’re not going to get published.

So what makes a book sell? Ah, well, there’s the conundrum. No one actually knows. It’s an indefinable thing, like falling in love. It either works or it doesn’t, and until the book’s out there, who knows whether people will want to buy it? There are certain factors which will help or hinder, however:-

Don’t write about cancer (my last boo boo)
Don’t write about people with an age gap (ditto)
Don’t write about the theatre or ballet (yes, another of mine)
Your main (female) character must not be over 40 (another mistake), preferably early to mid thirties -

And so the list goes on, with lots and lots of Dos and Don’ts about plot, characters, conflict etc. which I won’t bore you with. All of the above rules can be broken, of course, but not by me – or not yet. So this time I’ve tried to keep within the rules. I can only keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best. Keep yours crossed too, would you? My baby is going off in the post today as soon as it’s stopped tipping down.

And many thanks for helpful comments about Mollie’s itching. As it’s on her back, she can’t scratch it with her claws so she hasn’t broken the skin, and a lot of the time it doesn’t bother her, but when it does, she gets very agitated. It’s not her anal glands as she had those done last week (a recurring problem, unfortunately, but one that I have now been shown how to do by the vet). I’ve decided to take her to the vet and made an appointment for tomorrow morning – they’re too busy today. In the meantime I’m off to buy moisturising shampoo and Aloe Vera. Will keep you posted on both babies.

Sunday 19 August 2007

A Doggie Problem


Moll has been itching a lot lately, on her back, mostly at night. She gets under the bed and gives her spine (towards her tail) a good scratch - you can tell something's bugging her (pardon the pun). She's up to date with her worm and flea stuff, but we gave her a good comb this morning to see if we could see any offending little buggers and there was nothing. Otherwise she's perfectly fit and as bouncy as ever.

Anyone got any ideas?
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Saturday 18 August 2007



The above photo was taken on Kiln Beach, Flushing last Friday on my younger brother’s birthday. We had a barbecue, the sun shone and you could almost believe it was summer.

My nephew decided he wanted to make his own fire on a couple of rocks, so this is Ben teaching him how to do it. I’m afraid they didn’t actually rub sticks together, but the fire stayed going for a while. Not bad for a nine year old.

This morning I lay in bed with a feeling of anticipation, of fluttery excitement. A new book is evolving inside me. I’ve got three characters, but they’re all shadowy, at the far end of a tunnel. Amorphous, indistinct. When I try and write them down, they melt away like shadows. But they’re there. I must wait until they come to me, which is the frustrating part. I can’t walk up to them and say, ‘who are you and what are you doing?’ because they will dart away as I approach, like timid animals. So until they gain confidence, I must kick around ideas, plot lines, reasons, doubts, insecurities. The beginning of another long journey that probably sounds crazy to those of you sane people not infected with this writing bug.

I’d thought that perhaps I couldn’t write another book. (I always think that.) I’d thought perhaps I should concentrate on journalism which is an easier way to try and earn money. (I didn’t say that journalism’s easy, because it certainly isn’t, but nothing is harder to earn money from than writing novels. Well, I can’t think of anything.)

But without a book in my life I feel as if something’s missing. I’ve lost my background, my definition, part of my soul. I can give my characters things that I would love. Children for one. And that makes me strong, makes me whole again. And, of course, there are the animals. I’d love lots, but I content myself with adopting fictional ones that become entirely real to me. In the last one were Hiccup and Pushkin (mad terrier and elderly moggy) who are more of my dearest friends. So the moral of this tale is, never underestimate the power of fiction, the pull of words.

Mad? Me?
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Friday 17 August 2007

Wet wishes (as opposed to dreams)

It’s been a wet week here in Cornwall, prompted by my unfailing capacity to overempathise. I can’t help it – I think I was born with my emotions far too near the surface. It started with Graham’s extremely well written blog – see link on right hand side - which had me sobbing into my keyboard.

Then my friend Viv lost her dog. Another deluge from the Flowerpot department. Last night I met a friend for a drink and was trying to cheer her up but ended up telling her about Sammy and cried so much I choked on my wine. (What a waste.) Deb stared at me I spluttered and coughed, tears streaming down my face. Still, at least that took her mind off her own problems.

Lastly I’ve just finished Marley & Me by John Grogan – a wonderfully touching memoir about a completely mad but loveable dog and the effect he had on his family. I was reading that at 4.30am, sobbing into my pillow. Don’t read this if you’ve just lost your pet, but it’s a beautifully written story of farewells and new beginnings, and what dogs can teach us about life. Very heartwarming.

So in order to stop the floodates, I thought I’d write about something entirely different and one that will keep me dry (I hope).

Looking at the rotten correspondent’s blog yesterday, she asked what we would do with $25,000. By my maths, this equates to about £12,500 and the stipulation is that you have to spend it on yourself and yourself only. I find this difficult as I’m not good at spending money on myself, but here goes.

I’d buy a campervan** so we could take Mollie off for holidays. We don’t have holidays at the moment – they’re not in our budget, and I don’t like hotels or bed and breakfasts much, Himself doesn’t like camping, so a campervan would be ideal. We could take off and adventure when and where we felt like it. I’m not sure how much they cost, but knowing us we’d get a secondhand one.

What I’d really like is to live somewhere with a proper garden – we have a small, very secure yard where Mollie can go and frolic via the catflap (both cat and dog use it) but it’s not the same as a good bit of grass and trees and things – she can’t have a good run. That’s what I’d like but you can’t really just buy a garden and plonk it down next to your house. So -

I’d go to a supermarket and buy whatever caught my fancy – without worrying about the cost. Books, stationery (I love buying stationery), flowers, stuff for my tubs, wine (lots of), food and treats for Mollie and Buster. Am I allowed that?

I would then ring my dearest mates and we’d go out for a meal. Somewhere dog friendly of course.

What would you do?

** I've just told Himself who said he doesn't think much of the idea of a campervan. Spoilsport. So Moll, it's you and me, girl!

Thursday 16 August 2007

Especially for Dog Lovers

Yesterday was a very sad day. On Tuesday Mollie and I went out walking with Viv and her very elderly Jack Russell, Sammy. Sammy arrived in Viv’s home 17 years ago and has, as you can imagine, been part of the family ever since. If not ruled the roost. We had a lovely walk, sorted the world out, and, as usual, Sammy bossed Mollie around (“bloody kids, no respect for their elders”) though she did look a bit tired on the way home so Viv carried her for the last bit.

Viv rang yesterday morning in tears and I had a horrible premonition which was right. Sammy died yesterday morning. "It was my fault," she cried. "That was a long walk for an old dog. It was too much for her.”

This had crossed my mind, but I said firmly, “Absolutely not. Her last outing was a lovely walk with her Mum. What better way to go?”

Poor Viv hiccuped down the phone and said, “Thanks, I feel much better now.” And we both cried for another ten minutes.

For those of you who don’t have dogs, it must seem strange that we are so utterly distraught when anything happens to our dogs. But they are our children, they’re part of us. Mollie is my first dog but I can’t imagine life without her now. She crept into my heart as a little scrap of a thing and now is lodged there, forever.

I’ve been wondering how best to comfort Viv and was considering taking her to a rescue centre. When she’s had time to grieve, which could take some time. Then I remembered meeting a friend last week whose lurcher cross is having puppies in a month’s time. “You don’t know of anyone who wants a puppy, do you?” she said. “I want them to go to a really good home.”

So now I have two possibilities.

On a brighter note, I was walking Moll this morning when I met a mum who got Poppy, a rescue greyhound. This young mum has two young children (2 and 4) so she’s got her hands full, but took on Poppy who had suffered terrible traumas which I can’t bear to repeat. Poor Poppy just stood and shook at first. Now, 4 months on, she’s a different dog. She bounds along, plays with other dogs, tolerates being crawled over by the children and can even greet men (her torturer was male).

When I said how lovely it was to see Poppy looking so happy, the mum smiled and her face lit up. “We’ve never had a dog before, so it didn’t matter having one with special needs,” she said. “We didn’t have anything to compare her to.”

She made me feel humble and inspired at the same time. If only there were more people like her in this world.

Wednesday 15 August 2007


Yesterday evening we had an unexpected visit from John, a friend of ours who looked very pale so I asked him if he was all right.

‘I’ve just come from the dentist,’ he said, sinking onto a chair with evident relief. ‘He said I might have to have several teeth out and I’ve been so worried, I haven’t been able to sleep, and then I get stressed out and my stomach plays up and I haven’t known what to do.’

Himself, being of a practical, forthright nature, said, ‘It’s all mind over matter, John. You just need to programme your brain and stop all this.’

‘It’s not like that,’ I said. ‘Remember my panic attacks? Poor John, you’ve had a horrible time. I know just how you feel.’

John looked mightily relieved that I understood, and started telling us various instances in his childhood when he’d been badly hurt by a dentist culminating in this terrible fear of needles. No wonder the poor fellow’s in such a state over it all now. It’s been festering all these years.

John’s 68 and very much of the thinking that such things as phobias don’t exist, so I’m delighted he was able to tell the dentist of his fears. We share the same dentist who’s a lovely fellow and has said he can give John Valium next time, and a numbing gel for the injection, because he has an exceptionally low pain threshold.

‘I feel so stupid,’ John said, gulping down a glass of wine with shaking hands. ‘A great big bloke like me being frightened of a little needle. It doesn’t make sense.’

‘No,’ I said. ‘But when has logic had anything to do with it?’

I do feel for him. I can remember all too well the feelings of shame and inadequacy I had when I had panic attacks, but being a six foot plus bloke who’s always been physically active all his life must make it seem even worse. Still, at least he could come and talk to us about it.

‘If there was anything I could change about myself, it would be this phobia,’ John said. ‘I hate having to live with it.’

Himself looked up and grinned. ‘Remember that cartoon?’ he said with a twinkle in his blue eyes. ‘The patient’s sitting in the dentist’s chair and the dentist has a needle in his hand, so the patient grabs him by the balls.
The caption is, “We’re not going to hurt each other, are we?”

I was relieved to see that John gave a smile. A faint one, but it was there.

Tuesday 14 August 2007

Rhubarb and Novel Writing

I’m writing this with a pan of rhubarb cooking in the kitchen. The hot, sweet smell drifts down the corridor promising good things to come. Next door Himself is on the phone talking to – oh no. A music shop. He’s asking about buying another cornet.

When he finished the call, I went next door.
‘Are you buying another cornet?’
‘Well, possibly.’
‘You’ve already got one cornet and a trumpet. Why do you want another one?’
He shook his head then and giggled guiltily. ‘It’s all about tone, Pop. You wouldn’t understand.’

Er, no. What I do understand is him. Rather better than he thinks. And I can see another cornet winging its way here to join the growing selection which he bought in order that he can ‘sell them on and make some money, Pop.’ But having got here, they stay. I don’t think he can bear to part with them. While I get broody over dogs, Himself gets broody over wind instruments.

I’ve just finished correcting the final draft of my current novel prior to sending it off to the critique service for their comments. As half of my mind is on journalism, I feel more distanced than usual, but it’s scary. I know this is the best I’ve ever written, but at the same time this doesn’t mean it will get published. And if I start getting rejections for this one (which is inevitable, given this game), I know how I’ll feel.

At first I brush them off. Then as the number grow, I realise it’s not going to work. My confidence crumbles and I feel bitterly disappointed, disillusioned and a failure. I’ll never want to write another novel again. This one is complex but the characters are much better, I feel, the plot much tighter. I’ve been looking at in amazement, thinking, Did I really write this? How? And also, if this isn’t good enough, I can’t do better than this. (Or can I?)

There is, of course, the faintest chance that I will send it out to agents and get some interest. (In my wildest dreams.) If I was to get an offer – which would be a two book deal - I’d be utterly terrified because I don’t think I could do this again. It’s too much hard work, and I don’t know how I wrote this one – there’s no formula. It either works or it doesn’t, a bit like relationships. But as the chances of this happening are extremely remote, I won’t lose any sleep over that.

The chances are, my baby will get turned down. And I will feel terrible for a week or so, sob my heart out and take Mollie for long, cleansing walks. And then I’ll realise that I can do better, and I will. I’ll pick myself up and start over again, because there’s no point in giving in. That’s the only time you really fail, when you give up.

Oh shit. I’ve burnt the rhubarb.

Monday 13 August 2007

The Last Step

Our elderly friend has been moved into the residential home a month earlier than planned, thereby completely throwing him. We got wind that this might happen last week, so I rang him to find out. The poor fellow was so confused and disorientated he couldn’t make any sense and passed me onto the daughter (thinking it was his wife, who died 15 years ago).
The daughter said, ‘Oh, he’s been falling every day, so I had to do something.’
I pointed out that he’d been falling every day for the past two years.
She didn’t reply but said that he was moving into the home the following day.
‘Just as well I rang, then,’ I replied. Very pointedly.
She spluttered a bit at that, but said that she’d ‘had to put her foot down,’ before adding hastily,‘but of course it was entirely his decision.’

Anyway, he’s there now and at least he’s safe and well looked after, but we got back from the carnival on Saturday night to find an incoherent message on our answerphone. As there wasn’t any point in talking to James, we rang the home back and left a message saying that we’d call again. He rang on Sunday morning at 8am wanting to know if we could come and see him.

We arrived at the home later that morning with some trepidation. The manager met us and said that James was sleeping well which is usually a good sign, but when we got there he was very agitated because his daughter had brought a whole load of files of bank statements when in fact she’s taking all that over now. It took 3 of us an hour and a half to persuade him that the daughter should take them back, so I hope she does.

On the bright side, he has a lovely sunny room overlooking fields with cows and a stream, and it’s very peaceful and rural. If you’ve got to go somewhere, this place has a friendly atmosphere and the people seem content and well cared for.

James was like a little boy in many ways, clinging and confused.
‘Will you come down – er – down?’ he said, getting into even more of a knot.
We realised he wanted us to wait and walk him downstairs to the dining room for lunch so we did, only to find we were half an hour early.

The staff were lovely and kind and escorted us all to the lounge where the residents sat in high backed armchairs, waiting. And waiting. I gulped and wanted to grab him and bring him back here (though in a one bedroom flat this is somewhat impractical). So I gave him a big hug and, feeling like traitors, we left.

He’s lost his confidence, you see, because he finds it so difficult to speak. ‘But James, there must be other people who find it difficult talking as well,’ I said. ‘And you can talk to us.’

‘Yes, but you’re friends. And I’ve known you for a long time,’ he said.

And he looked at me with such trust, I felt honoured to be his friend.

Saturday 11 August 2007

Great White Sharks

This isn't a picture of where we were yesterday because the pics are still on the camera, but it's a favourite beach of mine on the Helford.

As I write I am sitting out looking at a massive white shark. It's true - Great White Sharks are alive in Cornwall - I have proof. This one is 22 foot long and lies on the terrace of our upstairs tenants, with the the remains of a person hanging out of its mouth.

It's been lovingly constructed, over the past few days, out of plastic hoops, pond lining and cardboard for the carnival which is tonight, to mark the start of Falmouth Week. This afternoon it will be carried down to the Star and Garter (for it's a thirsty shark) before making its way to Kimberley Park for the carnival parade. As we are both utterly shattered, I think we'll have to have a rest before such excitement.

When I've uncovered the camera (which is lurking somewhere, underneath barbecue Stuff), I will take a picture. Sharky's called Eric, by the way.

Friday 10 August 2007

Awards and hormones

And many thanks indeed to The Thinker for this award which is much appreciated. It comes at a good time, too, as I am Hideously Hormonal. Can't concentrate, weepy, snapping Himself's head off, exhausted - know the feeling? And of course my dear youngest brother and his family are down for a few days - it's his birthday today. Couldn't be better timing, could it?

My mood is not helped by our dear friend James who had to move into a residential home yesterday, a month early and in glorious weather which he was hoping to enjoy at home, with the family. The choice was not his but his daughter's and it makes me MAD. (This is a very long story.) How dare she treat him like that?

But enough of that. Pause while I take a deep breath, think Soothing Thoughts and Calm Down.

I have to nominate five other people who are:-
Cornish Dreamer
Miss Understood
Mother at Large
Sally Lomax

And now I'm off to pick my mother up from the station for a family picnic. Family barbecue this evening. So you just know it will rain... But even so, it will be lovely to see them all.

Thursday 9 August 2007

To set the record straight....

I fear I may have given a slightly misleading impression yesterday, so here are a further few facts just to balance the overall picture:-

1. He is an inveterate meat eater; I rarely eat the stuff.

2. He will only read books written by men (NO comment). I read books written by both men and women.

3. He isn’t very sociable; I am.

4. He’s very practical; I’m not.

5. He’s hopeless at writing anything down or organising anything so I do it.

6. He has a very slow metabolism; mine’s fast.

7. He sleeps in thick sweatshirt; I sleep naked.

8. He loves traditional jazz, dislikes any other kind of music. I’m not that mad on jazz but love musicals, singing and ballet.

Not quite so similar, then!!

Wednesday 8 August 2007

8 Things you never knew....

Following on from Akelamalu’s meme, here are 8 things about Himself and me:-

1. The year I was born, Himself was a teenager cycling round Holland with a friend.

2. Although neither of us was born in Cornwall, both our families are Cornish.

3. Our first date was on a filmset at the Celtic Village in Chacewater, not from Truro. (This sounds a lot more glamorous than it was but that is another story.)

4. He has a sweet tooth, I don’t.

5. Neither of us can eat chocolate – he gets mouth ulcers, I get completely hyper (well, more so than usual) and usually get a headache for good measure.

6. Both our fathers died in the late 1970s, both of cancer.

7. We both cry at films (though this is because he’s lived with me for too long. I can cry at just about anything).

8. I’ve never met another man I feel so comfortable with. He’s one of the few men I know who will chat on the phone for hours. The length of conversation depends on how much he’s had to drink.

Tuesday 7 August 2007

The (5 minute) Pledge*

*Reproduced with agreement from Himself

For the last three weeks, Himself has been alcohol free. For those of you that know him, this is quite an achievement as he has always been an - enthusiastic - drinker. And I have to say I enjoy my glasses of wine of an evening.

Last Thursday we had a meal at our local pub and so he decided to have a few drinks. On Friday we met friends for a drink and he was well restrained as he had been the previous night.

On Saturday afternoon I went off walking with a friend and said, ‘you can please yourself, darling. Drink gin all afternoon.’ (He’d bought a bottle of gin a few days beforehand.)
‘Oh no, Pop,’ he said, very sanctimoniously. ‘I wouldn’t do that.’

I got back at about 5.30pm to find him watching a John Wayne film, glass of gin in front of him. He asked if we’d had a good time and whether my Swedish friend had enjoyed it. I told him about the afternoon and settled down onto the sofa with him. Five minutes later he asked if we’d had a good time and whether my Swedish friend had enjoyed it. I looked at his glass. ‘How much gin have you had?’ (He gets amnesia after a certain amount to drink.)
‘This is my first,’ Pop,’ he said with a wide eyed innocent expression.

Suffice it to say that the best part of the litre bottle of gin evaporated that night. I got my own back. I asked him to mend the video at 9pm. I enjoyed seeing him sprawled on the floor, trying to focus on the TV cables.

He didn’t sleep very well. He swore never to drink gin again. In fact he swore not to drink again.
He drank a bottle of wine that night.
Yesterday we were out walking the dog and he said, ‘I’m not going to drink at all this week, Pop.’
I was impressed.
Half an hour later, we stopped at the supermarket on the way home and he emerged carrying two bottles of wine.
Mind you, he only drank half a bottle last night.

Does ‘I’m not going to drink this week,’ mean ‘I’m going to drink what I want,’? Is it me? Am I missing something here?

When I asked him, he laughed till the tears streamed down his face and finally gasped, ‘I’m entitled to change my mind, Pop.’

I don’t know. It’s enough to drive a girl to drink.

Monday 6 August 2007

A Royal Award

Another award - from Akelamalu. Thank you so much, Ak. Very cheering, particularly as I have to go to the dentist in an hour or so for a splint to be put in. No, I've never had a splint before, either, but it's to save one of my teeth rather than having it hoiked out (had rather a lot of that recently). Still, at least my dentist is very good looking and has a sense of humour, so I shall try and concentrate on him rather than what he's doing to my mouth (if you get my drift).

Also, the other day I started getting pains up my arm and wrist which I think means RSI. Occupational hazard for a writer, but not pleasant, so I'm off to see the physio tomorrow who sounds very competent and knows all about RSI. Thank God for that - I can't afford to fall apart!

Saturday 4 August 2007

The Helford


First of all, welcome to blogland to Himself (finally up and running!) and This Painting Life – a very talented painter friend of mine - see links on RHS.

The above picture was taken the other afternoon when Himself came with me (and Moll, of course) on a A Long Walk (for Himself) – an hour and a half’s steep walk through woods down to a secluded (dog friendly) beach, then along the coast to Mawnan Church and back along the road.

It was a good afternoon of eavesdropping as the path seemed to be littered with elderly walkers, the beach with young mums with children and dogs. The best conversation, though, goes to an elderly American whose voice preceded his brand new walking boots on a particularly steep part of cliff.

‘I keep tripping over my feet,’ said the disembodied voice rounding the corner. ‘And I mean, literally. My feet have – kinda – a mind of their own, and I trip right over them.’

‘Oh dear,’ said his friend who’d just come into view. He had that exhausted, defeated look of wishing he’d never suggested a walk with the loud voiced American and was looking wistfully over the cliffs to see how far down it was to the rocks below…

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Friday 3 August 2007

Awards and Erotic Answers

First of all, I am giddy with pleasure as Akelamalu has awarded me the Inspirational Bloggers Award for “always having something interesting to say’. Thank you so much, Ak. That’s setting a real precedent!

I now have to nominate 5 others who are:-
And Who Cares
Around my kitchen table
Nienke Ninton

But I’m sure none of you are interested in that, and want to get on with The Answers from yesterday’s revelation into Himself’s early erotic experiences.

When I asked him he said, ‘if people want to know what happened, tell them they have to each send £25.’
I sighed. ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ I said. ‘They’re not stupid. What happened?’

He gave in quickly and gracefully (through years of practise) and said that

1. No, he didn’t tell John about The Grope. Well, he’s a bloke, of course he wouldn’t have.
2. No, the mother didn’t make any reference to their grope, either. (No surprise there)
3. As for whether he stayed there again, he can’t remember. Can’t remember? I believe him when he says this, but this is the difference between men and women. Or is it just me and him?

If it was me, I’d have that experience burned onto my psyche. I’d remember sitting at breakfast the next morning, my collar sticking to my neck as I wondered if the maid had seen. I’d sit opposite John with a frenzy of mixed hormones roaring through my head. What would he think if he knew what his mother had done? Had I responded? Had I responded enough? What was she – an Old Woman (approx 38) DOING? Did she really fancy me? Wow!!!!

And I’d also remember what John said when he next invited me to stay.

‘Oh, thanks, but I’m a bit busy – we’re going to Cornwall for the holidays.’
NO WAY am I going anywhere near that woman again.


‘Oh, thanks. Yeah, great.’
Will it happen again? What would I do if it did? Or did I dream it?

Which do you think he said?

Thursday 2 August 2007

Sex and Mrs Robinson


This photo is specifically for Mopsa (see earlier post on sex magnets).

Yesterday Himself told me about a time when he was 14 and went to stay with a very posh friend in the holidays. The friend, John, who went on to become an actor, had an American mother, in her late 30s at the time, who was an alcoholic. The father didn’t appear to be around, or perhaps he was off earning Big Money, for they were very rich.

Himself and John were served breakfast by a maid, dressed in black with a white pinny, who they both had incredible fantasies about. She seemed quite capable of dealing with two adolescents, and teased them unmercifully, no doubt adding to their horny dreams.

For lunch and evening meals the two boys were sent into town to a restaurant where the family had an account (I kid you not) but they returned to the mansion for tea, which was served by the maid. Not, of course, that they wanted tea, but they were desperate to see the maid again.

One evening Himself trundled off to his single bed to indulge in further wild fantasies concerning the maid when he was stopped on the stairs by John’s mother, somewhat the worse for wear.
‘She grabbed me,’ he said, ‘and kissed me – you know – properly.’
Yes we can all get the gist of that.
‘I was astonished,’ he said with a rumble of a laugh. ‘Remember I was only 14. If it had been a few years later, I would have had her flat on her back.’

Apparently the grope didn’t go any further – presumably she was too drunk. Then I started wondering. Did he tell John? Did the mother make any reference to it in the morning? And did Himself ever stay there again?
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Wednesday 1 August 2007

Try and try again

Yesterday I met a fellow writer looking for a novel writing group. As ever, when meeting someone for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect. What age, what her background was, what she’d written (if anything).

It turns out that she retired from being a doctor and became a life coach. She’s written loads of articles on the subject, and self published two books, but doesn’t quite know where to go with her business writing. Thinking with my journalist’s hat on, I suggested that I interview her – it may help her business and would certainly help me. She agreed, with a delighted smile.

She has also attended novel writing courses but keeps getting stuck half way through.
For those of you that don’t write, or don’t write fiction, this is very common. Mid Way Sag as it’s known in the trade. It’s easier to start a book, when you’re full of ideas, and ending it’s usually OK because you know where it’s going, and you’ve got to know the characters like your family, but sometimes in the middle you can lose faith. In yourself, the characters, the plot, your ability to finish it. It’s lonely and frightening walking along that narrow, dark tunnel with only your worst fears for company.

So I suggested that this lady comes to our group when she’s in Falmouth and having some support may help her. Or not – that’s probably up to her. I find my group invaluable.

But it was uplifting to meet someone who’s started another career post retirement. Just because you’re over 60 doesn’t mean you have to be put out to pasture.
Another member of my group is another lady who’s had multiple careers. She trained as a nurse in the fifties, then when her marriage broke up she trained as a teacher and taught psychology. When she retired from there she became a writer which is how I met her. Last year she collaborated on a psychology text book for nurses and she’s now writing a semi-autobiographical novel about her earlier life.

I met Himself when he was 56. We married when he was 59. He was sick of being a jeweller and became an inventor. Several years on he decided to try his hand at writing. (Well, we won’t mention the blog which is still wordless, though yesterday he did describe to me in great detail what he’s going to write when he is ready.)

What all of these people have in common is that they enjoy life. OK, so being a nurse/doctor/jeweller didn't work. They did something different. And they enjoyed it and learnt from it. Isn't that what life should be about?

So any of you that are having a bad day, feeling old before your time, or just creaky and useless (that’s me) – don’t despair. It’s never too late to try something else.