Saturday 31 May 2008

The Credit Crunch

These are Gloucester Old Spot piggies, and the picture was taken at the tenth anniversary of the Truro Farmers’ Market a few weeks ago. Himself and I are both much enamoured by pigs – in fact he stood there and watched them quite contentedly for ages….

I heard yesterday that our local animal rescue centre has been badly hit by the credit crunch. They have noticed a big increase in the number of dogs being dropped off by distraught owners no longer able to keep their beloved pets.

The reasons include:-

Having to move into rented accommodation and most landlords won’t allow pets.

Having to work longer hours in order to pay bills, so the dog is left alone for 8 or 10 hours. Dogs are sociable creatures and need company; they can become destructive if left alone for too long.

People not able to cope with food, vet’s bills and/or insurance for their dogs.

I find this so sad, and it must be agonising working in an animal rescue centre. The only time I’ve ever been, I had to be hauled out in tears and taken for a cup of tea to get myself back together again. Seeing those poor animals who’d been badly treated, or abandoned, or both – don’t start me on that.

I have to say, it’s cheaper for us to feed Mollie per week than Bussie, but then Himself insists on feeding Bussie every time he goes into the kitchen. He sits by the biscuit cupboard – Bussie this is – with the most implacable stare. You can almost hear him saying, “Open the ***ing cupboard you silly fool.”

I glare at him, say NO and give him a stroke.
Himself says, “Oh, all right,” and gives him another plate of biscuits.

None of our pets are insured (she says, touching wood quickly) – having a scruffy mongrel like Mollie means that she is much less likely to have health problems than a pedigree dog – inbreeding tends to cause these sort of problems. And Bussie? Well, he’s a scruffy old farm cat. He did need vet treatment last year when he got an abscess following a fight he’d been in, but thankfully the treatment wasn’t for long.

It just shows that this credit crunch is hitting everyone. Not just you and me but our pets as well.

Thursday 29 May 2008

Six random things

The above image comes courtesy of Ruth and is an uplifting one which I need today. An ill wind has been blowing over Flowerpot House recently and I shall be glad when it passes.

I have been tagged by maggie to list six random things, and as I did this not long ago so here is a mostly animal version:-

My first cat, Minnie, was a wonderful tortoiseshell who we met when visiting a friend’s farm. This kitten had been abandoned by her mum and was driving everyone crazy, winding herself round everyone’s ankles. She was brought up by a labrador and a goat so she had some peculiar characteristics including sitting in the stream purring.

My next cat, Cyd (named after Cyd Charisse, because she had lovely legs), belonged by my mate Sandra initially. She decided to go to Australia when Cyd was 8 and no one else would look after her until I stepped in. Having said she would be away for 6 months, Sandra actually went for 18 monthsw, and by the time she came back, Cyd was Not Amused. Sandra came over to discuss parenting rights and Cyd bit her. After that she stayed with me and we moved – oh I don’t know how many times. She fell in love with Himself (thankfully) and lived until she was 19.

We had a miserable six days after poor Cyd had to be put down, then the receptionist at work said she’d found two kittens who’d been abandoned over Christmas. They were at the vet’s in Tuckingmill and did I want one of them? Did I hell. We took our lunch hour at 10am and drove over to get them, left them with Himself at the workshop (thereby ensuring no work was done) and by the time I came home from work, Bussie had the run of the place.

Mollie came about as a cure for depression. It worked – at the time. There are hiccups of course, like the one we are struggling through at the moment, but that’s life. Mollie is a joy and keeps me sane. And Bussie? well, he's still Top Cat.

I’d actually like lots of cats and dogs, but living in a one bedroom flat with only a small yard means it’s not practical. Anyway I think Bussie might leave home.

All my cats have lived until they were at least 18. I hope Bussie does the same.

As a last item, which has nothing to do with animals, I hear that the great and talented Beryl Cook died yesterday. The world will be a poorer place without her paintings. I wish I’d met her – I bet she was such fun.

RIP Beryl.

Tuesday 27 May 2008

That Old Weepy....

Yesterday afternoon we sobbed our way through The Sound of Music for the umpteenth time. That’s both of us. Himself is just as soppy as I am when it comes to this film.

But having seen it so many times, I only recently started thinking what it was all about. Climbing your mountain until you find your dream. Climbing that mountain for as long as it takes. And when things are really lousy, you have to remember, as she did, that, “when He closes a door he opens a window”. Something I must remember, as a writer, when I go through a really lousy stage.

With every film there has to be Good and Evil, and in this instance the Catholic Church is portrayed as a very powerful good force – remember the wedding scene, and the way she walks up the vast aisle? Then the camera pans to the bishop, up and up throughout the church, up to the mountains. God is very much in those mountains at the beginning, running around with Maria (or vice versa). And of course later the mountains are her way of escape, with her new family.

The Nazis are the evil force. As Gretel, the youngest girl so aptly says, “the man with the black spider makes everyone nervous.” You bet he does.

And of course, put a bunch of nuns against a bunch of Nazis and we all know who wins. The nuns prove they’re good at car maintenance as well as praying.

I suppose most of us can identify with the characters – Maria is brave, honest, funny, true and not afraid to stand up for herself, or for what she believes. Captain Von Trapp admires her courage, her honesty and her love for his children that shows him how to love them as well as her.

What is most important to the Captain is his patriotism. (His children at first come second, but they resume their rightful importance later.) It is his love of Austria that runs through the film, and his realisation that Austria is no longer what it was, despite the Germans insisting that, “We will show to the world that Austria is the same”.

And I love the Captain for that. For his refusal to compromise, to give in. As Maria says, “I can’t ask him to be less of a man than he is.”

At the end we blew our noses and had a cuddle. “I don’t know why it’s so emotional,” Himself said, wiping his eyes. “I suppose because Austria had gone and I can identify with that. We’ve lost something too – Britain isn’t what it was.”

Driving through town this morning to walk Mollie, I looked at the American shake bar, the Italian restaurant, the Italian olive shop, the tapas bar and so on. And I realised he’s right.

Friday 23 May 2008

Ups and Downs

Warning – this post is for those of a strong constitution. Take the last few quotes as they are meant, with a pinch of salt.

Yesterday was a real rollercoaster of a day. Starting with the Bad News from Himself’s tooth, at least he made an appointment to see the dentist on Tuesday and he’s decided that if he can find the crown, he will ask Mark to fix it temporarily until he can get a plate made, and will then play with that.

‘I was talking to another musician on Sunday and he glues his plate in so he can play,’ he said. I wasn’t sure of that but felt it best to keep quiet. Any glimmer of hope on the horizon is worth gold dust in this household.

I then saw a cryptic note on the kitchen table.

‘What’s this?’ I said trying to make sense of the note.

‘Oh,’ he said vaguely. ‘C rang. She sounded rather upset. I wasn’t quite sure what it was about so I said you’d ring her back.’

(You can see why most of the really good secretaries/PAs are women.)

I did and found that the poor thing, who’s had a terrible time recently as her father was beaten up, had received a threatening phone call the previous night. The police were less than helpful and don’t appear to be able to do much. No comment.

She was off to see the police so I asked her to call later as I had a meeting in Truro. Set off, deeply worried by – well, everything really.

The Good News is that the meeting I had with a magazine editor went very well and I got many more commissions than I expected. And no deadlines, so I can work on the novel as well without chaining myself to the computer.

I rushed out of the building, trying to ring Himself with the good news only to find he was nowhere to be found (and his phone’s run out of money). Went on to another writing meeting where we spilled our news of the last few weeks, words tumbling out over bowls of coffee and cake in Waterstone’s café. There’s nothing like exchanging writing news with people who can really share what you’re going through, and somehow every minute was too short, and an hour and a half sped by with still not enough time.

I left there and when I finally spoke to Himself his voice was flat. ‘Well done, Pop. I’m really proud of you,’ he said, misery etched into his words. I could tell the cornet practice had gone really badly so when I got home I reiterated the offer of Plan B. ‘I don’t think we’ll need that, Pop,’ he said. ‘I’ll wait and see if I can get the crown back – if I’ve swallowed it, it’s got to come out. How long does it take to digest things?’

‘About a day,’ I said, wrinkling my nose at the thought of the forthcoming investigations. ‘Maybe 2 depending on what you’ve eaten.’

To cut a long story short, that evening we saw our friend who’d received the horrible phone call, had a glass of wine with her and her partner and sent them off with sleeping pills.

After walking Moll this morning we dashed back and Himself headed towards the smallest room in the house. Minutes later he disappeared into the yard with a bucket and started hosing things down. If you get my drift.

Then I heard a mighty ‘Hey!!!!’ and he stood there grinning, holding the tiny bit of crown aloof, like an Olympic medal. ‘And don’t you blog about it!’ he said. Some chance.

He came into the bedroom later (my “office”) and stared thoughtfully out of the window.

‘I wonder what else is in there?’ he said. ‘Can I sell it?’

Thursday 22 May 2008

Oh, no...

And it just has got worse.

Himself and I both woke up at 5.30am and he said, 'The crown's come out, and I must have swallowed it in my sleep.'

The dentist only put it back in yesterday....

And he said, 'I'll have to cancel the rehearsal. I can't play without the tooth.' (It's all to do with the embouchure, which I won't go into now but it's long and complicated, takes months to get the embouchure right in order to play.)

My mind started racing, thinking about what we could do. 'Ring the dentist,' I said. 'See if they can put it back in again.'

'They can't,' he said, his voice flat with weary disappointment. 'They have to order a bit of tooth from the dental technician before they can put it in.'

I foresaw weeks of no rehearsals. Of the gig in August being cancelled. Of Himself becoming not only bitterly disappointed, but deeply depressed. He lives for his jazz - having relinquished boating he needs another love in his life (apart from me and Moll of course).

'They'll have that on file,' I said. 'If you ask today perhaps they can get it for next week.' Anything to save missing another rehearsal.

So that's the plan. I could feel the heavy disappointment radiating from his body, but we will ring the dentist at 9am.

If they can't do anything soon, I have a Plan B. See if the fearfully expensive but very good private dentist I had to go do will be able to see him. It'll cost me, but it'll be worth it. And I know he'd do the same for me.

Wednesday 21 May 2008

The unjustness of life

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, life can conspire against you.

In this instance, I’m talking about Himself’s efforts to play the cornet, something he has managed with a good deal of success in the past.

Imagine then, how devastated you would be if when you picked up the instrument, your mouth dried up and felt as if it was full of sand. And when you tried to play, you kept fluffing notes, when before your notes were perfectly in tune. The intense disappointment, for having given up sailing, the major love of your life, and fallen in love with another fickle nymph called Jazz, this one is eluding you too?

Give him his due, if there’s a problem he will go all out to try and fix it. He’s spent hours of research on the matter and thought it might be a yeast allergy. So for the last 3 weeks he’s eliminated all yeast from his diet.

Before last week’s rehearsal he really felt better, but was horrified and dismayed when the practice was no better. After all that effort! And the gig is in August and he has to be in tip top condition by then which means months of practice.

‘So what is it exactly?’ I asked. ‘Do you feel like this when you practice at the workshop?’

‘No, he said. ‘No, the dry mouth started just before we started rehearsing.’

‘Perhaps it’s nerves,’ I said.

He looked at me askance. ‘I’ve never had nerves before, Pop,’ he said, as if nerves were a form of STD.

Since then he’s done hours more research and found that yes, it might be nerves. The research also revealed that betablockers can help, if taken for a short time only. So he went to the docs who said that actually he’d helped an opera singer for the same thing and they worked for her.

He came back delighted clutching his prescription. ‘I should be all right for this week’s rehearsal, Pop,’ he said. And his face fell. ‘I hope,’ he added.

Later on we were eating our meal – mince in his case – and what happened? The crown on his front tooth dropped out.

For those of you that don’t, like me, play a wind instrument, this means you’re unable to play because the blow is all wrong (to use layman’s terms).

Thankfully, he’s at the dentist now having it repaired. Let’s just hope nothing else goes wrong…

Monday 19 May 2008

Comings and Goings

Today our little flat has been a whirlwind of activity since 6am when I got up to feed the animals. Shelagh, my sister in law was up (as she usually is) and packing as she is starting her long journey back to Vermont today.

By 8am we’d all breakfasted, the washing machine was doing its last very noisy spin cycle and Shelagh was checking her emails – anything to delay that awful half hour before she had to leave to get the train. Then Steve, the scaffolding fellow, arrived to give us a quote for scaffolding as the house needs repainting and bits are falling off the top flat and the TV aerials need moving and the flat upstairs needs new windows. Phew.

Steve dealt with the inside mayhem very well – Mollie barking frantically at this change in routine (and where’s my walk Mum?) – Shelagh dashing for a last minute pee, me trying to put the washing out.

At 8.30 her lift arrived to take her to the station and we looked at each other. I realised with a terrible drop in my stomach that it would be another 2 years before I see her. Two years? And I thought of the last 3 weeks – how come they went so quickly?

For the last six weeks I’ve been very short of sleep and this has made me exhausted, so unlike my normal hyper self. I haven't been able to take her places because I've been zonked. Last night I said, ‘we haven’t done half the things we meant to.’

‘No,’ she said with a smile. ‘But we’ve done other things.’

This morning we hugged on the pavement and I tried to stifle the gaping sense of loss. Hoping the journey back will go without a hitch. Realising that we’re all getting older and that travelling and – well, just living – takes more out of us.

As she hugged me she said, ‘Butterfly! That’s the clue.’

I quizzed her but all she said was, ‘like The Purloined Letter.’

‘What?’ I said. ‘Who?’

‘By Edgar Allen Poe.’

I groaned. ‘I haven’t read that.’

‘You’ll just have to look,’ she said. ‘See ya!’

We waved her off and rushed inside like children to scour the living room. Finally, on the mantelpiece, I saw a beautiful paper butterfly with a note attached.

Below the butterfly find a contribution to the Frivolity Fund. Love, Shelagh and thank you for another super holiday. Xxx to you both.

What more can I say? Thank you Shelagh.

Friday 16 May 2008

Life Through a Lens

The other night I went to see Life Through a Lens, a documentary about the photographer Annie Liebowitz. For those of you not familiar with her work, she hit the headlines last year when the Queen apparently snapped at her during a photo shoot. This was subsequently denied. Name a celebrity and she's probably taken a picture of them, including the naked and pregnant Demi Moore. She took that famous picture of a naked John Lennon wrapped round Yoko Ono, little knowing that five hours later he would be dead.

Annie Liebowitz first started taking pictures of the Rolling Stones for Rolling Stone magazine in the early 1970s. She toured with them and took some incredible pictures. She has an ability to capture a moment that reveals something about the person or persons, that makes you think, or laugh, or cry. She has worked incredibly hard all her life, worked for Tina Brown at Vanity Fair, then at Vogue, specialising in celebrity pictures.

Following her relationship with the writer Susan Sontag, she was inspired to do better, and went to Sarajevo where she took stark pictures of war and the damages that can be inflicted on its victims. Her pictures didn’t skirt the truth, but looked it straight in the eye, unflinchingly.

When Susan Sontag died she similarly took pictures that were heartbreaking in their portrayal of death. Once again she put her work first, perhaps gaining solace from it.

She now has children and said that they made her world round where previously it had been flat. She obviously adores these children and somehow manages to be a hands-on mum and keep her career going at the same time.

This documentary is fascinating and shows just how hard anyone has to work in order to succeed. Annie Liebowitz has sensitivity, is compassionate and caring, loving and has a great sense of fun. She is also incredibly professional, a very hard taskmaster and produces incredible results.

What struck me, as a writer, is how similar the two arts are. In photography, as in writing, a good picture or scene is all about capturing the moment. It’s about the story behind the story. It’s about humour and empathy and the rawness of truth.

If this documentary comes to anywhere near you, go and see it. She is a true inspiration.

Wednesday 14 May 2008

Du Maurier Festival

So much happened yesterday it’s difficult to believe it all packed into one day. We went to the Daphne du Maurier festival in Fowey in stunning weather. For those of you haven’t been, Fowey is one of the most beautiful places in Cornwall and yesterday it looked like the setting for your favourite novel – whatever it may be. The sea sparkled, the sun shone and Fowey’s special magic enveloped us all.

We went to hear Salley Vickers talk and she turned out to be a very fluent, fascinating speaker who uses her hands and arms a lot to illustrate points (a trait that I like). She’s tall and slender with a most engaging smile, rather like Renee Zellwegger, with those same cheekbones.

Salley discussed how she writes, her novels to date and various themes and read a bit from her most recent novel about to be out in paperback next month. She also pointed out that us writers never read our novels like readers to – in a relaxed fashion, for enjoyment. We’re always editing and looking at them with a critical eye, so it’s no wonder that readers see things in our books that we don’t. We’re far too close to them.

After the talk, which kept us all enthralled for well over an hour, we had a picnic and made our way down to Readymoney Cove to see what had happened to my friend Jane’s old cottage. As we walked down the hill my footsteps quickened and I had a horrible feeling – turning the corner, I saw the cottage with a plastic shute hanging down from the bedroom into a skip. Getting closer, we peeked inside and saw rubbled walls, the shell of a bathroom. A ghost of a house.

I felt sick, but was confronted by a friendly builder who told me that the house had been sold to a very nice family from Bath who want it for their family. While I’m glad it is to be a family holiday home, it still means it will be a second home. Something Jane would have hated. Still, at least hopefully it will be loved and used and maybe the family will pass it down as they grow up and generations of families will love it. Maybe.

I ran up into the woods after that, partly because I had to be by myself for a minute to absorb all this, and partly to take pictures for Arthur goes into the woods to practice his cornet. The green lushness of the spring trees was soothing and took me inside myself, to a place where Jane’s house was still intact, where her lover lived inside it and there was no danger of it being destroyed. Fiction is a powerful, restorative thing.

We then made our way back into town where we met my distant cousin Richard Kittow who has a fabulous butcher there and he told me about his side of the family, also buried at Altarnun. They gave up mining to become farmers then started hawking their cattle around and he has carried on with the butchery business ever since. A fluent talker, Richard would have chatted all day I think if I hadn’t had a nudge in the ribs to remind me that the car parking ticket was about to expire.

We got home and Himself suggested going for a drink at Gylly Beach to celebrate the beginning (and end I fear) of summer, and had a glass of wine watching everyone enjoying the last of the sunshine. All in all, a wonderful day, and Himself is delighted as he thinks The Lip is improving. I think he’d been at the gin, but nonetheless I do hope he’s right.

Monday 12 May 2008

Summer Days and Mysterious Signs

Yesterday, while Himself enjoyed a noisy jazz band in a hot sweaty pub, Shelagh and I took Miss Moll (as she calls her) for a circular walk through fields, trees, along by the beach and back through a hidden valley. We end up walking through a hamlet called Bareppa which is just like stepping into a children’s story.

There are quaint cob cottages, a beautiful old house – Bareppa House – with stone pineapples on top of each gatepost, and peacocks used to fly over the road into a nearby garden. Sadly these have gone, but horses graze contentedly in a nearby field, their coats gleaming in the heat. Around their feet the grass was studded with golden buttercups and pinpricked with daisies. You could almost imagine it was summer.

Half way round we found a wooden bench in the shade and did as we were told. We rested a while.

Later on we both went to the spa in Falmouth and had a massage – the last of my birthday vouchers. I got up feeling groggy and almost unable to speak, but after a while it settled and I felt clearer than I have done for weeks. Shelagh had 70 years of accumulated tension to disperse from her shoulders (“like concrete” according to the masseuse) and went to bed at 8pm.

As I lay in bed later last night, I found myself wondering about the bench. Did she used to sit there like us and think? Did she live there or was this her favourite magical spot? Did she sit and paint with her dog by her side? Who was she and what stories did she have to tell?

(Tomorrow we are off to the Daphne du Maurier festival to hear Salley Vickers talk. A lovely, literary day full of inspiration I hope. It also means I can revisit Jane's cottage and plan the next few chapters of Arthur.)

Saturday 10 May 2008

The Clipper Cafe

This is published in May's issue (the current one) of Cornwall Today. By some quirk of fate, their new found celebrity status (courtesy of this piece, of course) ensured that they were made an offer for the cafe, so they have sold the lease as they have long been looking for something bigger. But they hope to be open, in bigger and better surroundings, in a month or two.

The Clipper café in Falmouth must be one of the smallest ever cafes, with only three tables. Four years ago, Bonny Laycock and Dave Johnson left London and took it on, and despite having no formal catering training, they have developed it into a highly successful and business. Their home made food, local ingredients and competitive prices appeal to students, lecturers, artists, musicians, families with young children, pensioners, dog lovers, regulars and tourists alike.

They also provide a takeaway service, cater for outside events on request, and now they have a wine and beer licence, and open three evenings a week for dinner. So what is their secret?

“Our policy is never to say no to anybody,” says Bonny. “We like to keep our prices down and be competitive. We could make more money but this way we get the customers we want. Food doesn’t have to be expensive.”

She’s busy preparing a chorizo sandwich with roasted vegetables – one of their specialities – in the café which is situated in Well Lane, a side street just off Church Street.

The cafe is friendly and inviting, with pictures by Bonny’s sister, students from University College Falmouth and posters from a friend’s exhibition adorning the walls. A vase of fresh tulips stands on each table, and in the corner of the room is a selection of newspapers, local magazines and flyers from local customers.

In the kitchen out the back, Dave cooks food and washes up while one of their helpers takes orders and delivers sandwiches to the many businesses that ring up requesting takeaways.

Both 35, Bonny and Dave met when Dave was at the University of North London. They had always dreamed of having their own business, but it was only when Bonny was made redundant that their dream became a possibility.

Neither of them had ever worked in the catering business: Bonny worked as a TV producer for an advertising agency, and Dave designed the intranet site for the Department of Works & Pensions, but they decided to use this time to their advantage.

“This was an opportunity and we made it happen,” Bonny says. “We both got jobs in delis in London to get a feel for dealing with the public and how it all comes together.

“We wanted to move to Cornwall and were looking all over the county, when this café came up, and it was in our price range. It was a bit of a risk but it was a manageable size for us to get our foot on the ladder: we didn’t want to gamble too much. We both really liked Falmouth. It had atmosphere and energy.”

The phone rings and Bonny takes another order, asks Dave to put some more baguettes in the oven. “I’ve always been interested in food as an amateur – on a greedy level,” she says cheerfully. “I love going into food shops; they have amazing smells and a wonderful atmosphere.”

At the Clipper, everything is sourced locally, where possible, or home made by Bonny. “We stuck to basics for the menu and introduced a few things we like such as roasted vegetables and houmous, which are versatile and a bit more interesting,” she says. “If things don’t work then we change them.”

Among the most popular dishes are chorizo and roasted vegetable sandwiches, risotto, fresh fruit salad, jacket potatoes, home made burgers with onion marmalade, fry ups and Bonny’s soups and cakes.

It’s a far cry from their days of working in London. “It’s pretty long hours,” Bonny says. “Half a week it’s a 12 hour day and the other half, when we’re open in the evenings, it’s 15 hours, six days a week, but we do both have a day off in the week. But we’ve created this and people seem to enjoy coming here and they come back. That’s a great confidence booster and a real thrill. People are coming to have a nice time so that helps create a good atmosphere. Also, it’s our own business and it’s great to make our own decisions, to try things and be more creative.”

Their long days mean that they have very little time off, and very little social life. “Only on Sundays,” says Bonny with a smile. “I like to catch up at home whereas Dave plays golf, yoga and squash and is interested in digital photography. But we do go away sometimes, and we had ten days off at Christmas. That’s another nice thing about having your own business – you can decide when to close.”

But their long working days didn’t deter them from opening in the evenings. “We thought we’d try evenings and give it a go,” she says. “We open Thursdays to Saturdays, bookings only. It works best if there are groups who take the place over as their own private dining room.”

This couple’s gamble has paid off, and they have plans for the future. “We’d like somewhere bigger,” says Bonny. “We’d continue with the daytime and develop it a bit. That would mean employing more staff, but this place is very small and I hate to see people going somewhere else because it’s full.”

They live in Falmouth at the moment, but would like to buy somewhere at some point. “I’d love to live somewhere in the countryside, like Constantine,” says Bonny. “If the right business came up, we might well move.”

Although Bonny and Dave weren’t unhappy living in London, they have embraced their new way of life. “What I love about Cornwall is that it’s so beautiful and the wildlife is just wonderful,” says Bonny. “Moving to a small town is a complete culture shock after the anonymity of London. I was wary of people at first, but now I really love it. People say hello and are much more friendly. When you come back after being away, it really feels like coming home. Cornwall is definitely the place to be.”

Thursday 8 May 2008

A tag

I've been tagged by Tom Foolery on a Desert Island tag. I love that programme and often wish I could have started out in radio as I would love to be the interviewer for that programme. The research would be fascinating, as would the actual interview - my idea of journalistic bliss!

Here, courtesy of Tom, is the tag:-

So my lovely castaways, as a treat YOU are being sent to that Desert Island. (An exciting prospect yes! or maybe no!) To add a quirky twist to the journey, before you leave you're going to be granted a final three course dinner to include drinks of your choice to be cooked by a world class chef.

So tell me what you want to have for your:

1. First course
2. Main Course
3. Sweet
4. Drink

Whilst you dinner is being carefully prepared, all you now have to do is sit back in your comfy chair with your pre-dinner drink and chose the items you are going to take with you to the desert island:
1. One piece of music/song.
2. One book.
3. One luxury item.

Now I'm not the best person to talk to about food but I will have a go:-

Olives for first course (I don't eat first courses as I never have room for a main course)
Main course would probably be Bonny's quiche with selection of roasted veg (see Clipper Cafe coming later this week)
Sweet - pass - I don't like sweets. I might have a sliver of cheese if I've got room.
To drink - wine. White. Not chilled thank you (I told you I had strange tastes)

Now trying to chose one piece of music or song is impossible. So I'm, going to cheat. As I'm passing on several food items I will make up with music. I'd like Gloria (in Excelsis Deo) - the Mass - not because I'm particularly religious but it is the most amazing piece of spine tingling music. I'd also like Even in The Quietest Moments by Supertramp and - oh where do I stop? I couldn't possibly just chose ONE song.

And as for one book - again, how on earth do you chose? My music, like reading material or food, depends entirely on my mood. But I would go for the complete works of Oscar Wilde.

And a luxury item? Well, it would have to be a computer, if that counts as luxury. As long as I could write I'd be OK!

Please feel free to take this up or list your choice in comments box.

Life is disrupted at the moment due to having Shelagh staying which is great fun but means little time for other things! As we only see her every other year, we have to make the most of it while she's here...

Tuesday 6 May 2008

9th wedding anniversary

Himself proposed one Easter Saturday, 9 years ago. We still had our beloved boat which he was restoring, and we went down to Restronguet to see her. (For once he was having a weekend off so I actually saw him.) In fact I remember being grumpy that we were going to see her at all, but he put down a ladder and said ‘come on, I’ve got something to show you’.

We clambered down into the boat which was, at that time, ribs and not much else, and he went down on one knee and asked me to marry him. Well – how could I say no?

Then followed the difficult bit. We made a list of everyone we wanted to invite to the wedding. Then another list of the people we should invite. It came to over 250 people, and neither of us wanted a big wedding.

“I think we should keep it quiet,” Himself said. “We’re going to Gibraltar for a holiday anyway – let’s get married out there.”

So I organised that, but keeping it quiet from the family was difficult. One evening my oldest brother rang up and said, “My wife thinks you’re going to Gib to get married.”

“We are,” I hissed. “But don’t tell anyone else.”

I put down the phone and it rang again. This time it was my mother. “You wouldn’t get married without telling me, would you?” said a wobbly voice.

I sat there wondering what to do. If I said no I’d be lying. If I said yes, she’d be utterly miserable. I can’t remember what I did say but I must have fudged something.

I then went next door and said to Himself, “We have to tell the family. It’s not fair.”

He agreed, and in the end we had a family do as it was Mum’s 70th birthday party the weekend before we were due to get married, so we saw all the family and flew off to Gib.

Life hasn’t been easy over those 9 years – well, 12 years since we met. But no relationship is ever easy. We’ve weathered a few storms, had our fair share of screeching rows, but our sense of humour has kept us together. And after all, what is life without a laugh?

Talking of which, Himself’s diet is going so well that he decided, on our wedding anniversary, to give up alcohol. (You can see how much celebrating we did last night.) He has a sense of timing, you could say, though this was after a few nights of drinking gin. When I pointed out that gin was three times as strong as wine, he said, “Don’t be ridiculous, Pop. It’s three timed distilled.”

Sometimes I’ve learnt it’s easier not to pursue certain matters. This was one of them.

Anyway, Day One of sobriety went well – but as in our marriage, we’ll take it day by day.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Saturday 3 May 2008

Oh No....

Himself had the long awaited first rehearsal for The Band the other day, which he was in charge of organising. I was expecting him back in a fervour of excitement, with jazz buzzing through his head as it usually does. Instead a despondent figure emerged, clutching his cornet case like a small boy with a satchel.

"How did it go?" I said with a sinking feeling.

"It wasn't good Pop. I kept fluffing notes. It was awful. I've got to get better - I'm leading the band for God's sake."

I tried to calm him down, suggested that perhaps he was nervous. And my heart went out to him. This forthcoming gig means to much to him and I couldnt bear for it not to work out. And he can play - he played really well at a gig several months ago. The question is, what's the matter now?

I think it might be partly that they haven't all played together before and it is different when you do. And partly confidence. Who knows what else?

He thinks it is a yeast allergy. Now this is something that came up exactly a year ago when he went and had an allergy test to find out why his mouth felt as if it was full of sand all the time. The results showed that he was allergic to yeast and so for a month he was really good and stayed off everything to do with yeast. This is more difficult than it sounds. It also means excluding milk, yogurt, cheese, mushrooms, chillis, bread and wine. (He hit the gin but we won't go into that.)

Unfortunately after a month he went back on everything, rather than adding things back into his diet gradually so he could identify the culprit but hey, what can you do?

I have to say, give him a problem and he will do his utmost to solve it. So the following morning at 6.30 am he was up and running down the corridor. "I'll be back," he said ominously, and returned with the results of last year's test.

So now he's back on it with a Vengeance. He has zip, he has zeal and he has purpose. This man is Intent on Solving his Problem.

So the freezer is full of bread that he won't eat (but his sister and I will)and he has stocked up on Ryvita and gin (no comment).

"As a wedding anniversary present you can have the rest of this bottle of wine, Pop," he said. I shan't tell you what I said in reply.

In order to prevent himself from overdoing the gin, he has wrapped some blue tape round a small glass to show him exactly how much a 35ml measure of gin is. Not that I expect this will make any difference, but he has 10/10 for trying.

It will be interesting to see how long this diet lasts. As he has a Purpose now, it could work.

I can only hope it does the trick with regard to his cornet playing. I couldn't bear for that to go wrong.

Thursday 1 May 2008

Welcome Home

My dear sister in law has just arrived for her two yearly visit so life is not following its normal pattern which is good. I like to have change. For the next few weeks I will have someone to discuss books with (we have a similar taste in reading), someone to walk the dog with, and a dear friend.

I remember her first visit, which must have been about ten years ago. I was very wary of this older sister, and she must have wondered who the hell this woman was that her brother had finally shacked up with. Not only had it taken him 56 years to move in with someone, but he’d ended up doing it with someone young enough to be his daughter.

She didn’t say any of this of course, but that’s what I would have thought. So the first visit we circled each other warily. Himself and I were both out at work all day so we only saw her in the evenings and at weekends, but gradually Shelagh and I discovered common interests, and a shared sense of humour. Move on from that and we both had access to the internet.

By the time she left, we had promised to email each other and we did. Every day. She lives in Vermont which is five hours behind the time here, so at the time I got into work she was getting up (yes, she does get up very early, always has done ever since she bred horses) and checking her emails. It was a good way to start the day for both of us.

Twelve years on, I look forward to her visits so much. Shelagh if you’re reading this, I have ordered two new Elizabeth Berg books so we have New reading material next week!

So here’s a big welcome to Shelagh, currently recovering from jetlag. Nothing that a few good walks with Mollie won’t cure…