Sunday 30 November 2008

More Gums and Tigers

I was summonsed to see my new dentist about this infection and the bad news is that I have to be on antibiotics for TWO MONTHS (albeit a very low dose) while I have more treatment to stop any more infections recurring. The good news is that I didn't have to pay him for his time (20mins) and he and the hygienist were very caring and kind and pleasant. (The other private lot were arrogant and couldn't care as long as they received large amounts of my money.)
So I'm sitting here with a glass of water, shortly to go on to grape juice – not quite the same as watching Little Dorritt with a glass of wine but there you go.

And on a more pleasant note - in a zoo in California , a mother tiger gave birth to a rare set of triplet tiger cubs. Unfortunately, due to complications in the pregnancy, the cubs were born prematurely and due to their tiny size, they died shortly after birth.

After recovering from the delivery, the mother tiger suddenly started to decline, although physically she was fine. The vets felt that the loss of her litter had caused the tigress to fall into a depression. They decided that if the tigress could surrogate another mother's cubs, perhaps she would improve.

After checking with many other zoos across the country, the bad news was that there were no tiger cubs of the right age to introduce to the mourning mother. The vets therefore decided to try something that had never been tried in a zoo environment. Sometimes a mother of one species will take on the care of a different species. The only orphans that could be found quickly were a litter of weanling pigs. The zoo keepers and vets wrapped the piglets in tiger skin and placed the babies around the mother tiger. What happened next....

Thursday 27 November 2008

One of Those Weeks Awards

Many thanks from Cornish Dreamer for these awards which have made my week.
Rather than nominate anyone in particular, please take them – you all deserve them!

It's been One of Those Weeks. I've been more hormonal than usual which has left me feeling exhausted and ratty. This means that maintaining any enthusiasm in my novel has been oh so difficult. I can't concentrate, and wish I could fast forward to The End, having somehow done all those tricky bits that require thought processes.

Today was typical of this week. We're walking Annie, an Old English Sheepdog belonging to a neighbour who's on holiday. Himself put Moll into the front of our van, while I fetched Annie and put her in the back (a bit of separation is necessary as the dogs go mad). On the way to the beach, Annie started howling as she does every morning – well, it's a cross between a howl and a sing which I'm sure is tuneful in dog language but painful to human ears. Then of course Moll started singing to keep her company. By the time we got to the beach it was raining. Tipped out dogs and spent the next 5 minutes clearing up dog poo and placing in suitable bins.

Himself looked in amazement at the amount Annie created and said, “I've never SEEN a dog who could c**p so much. No wonder she makes such a noise in the car.”

After 15 minutes of walking, the heavens opened. I was wearing waterproof trousers but Himself wasn't so you can imagine how pleased he was. We headed towards the cafe with two wet dogs to shelter. It stopped a bit so we continued to walk and try and dry the dogs out. Got back home in time to unload dogs and Himself had to pick up a carpet cleaner for upstairs tenants.

Came back and I tried to print off rest of manuscript for someone to read. Paper jam. Fixed that. Brand new printer cartridge then ran out of ink after18 pages. I think you can guess my reaction. Finally fixed that –

And now I've got toothache, having spent a large amount of money at the hygienist on Monday. Had to go to my NHS dentist who said, “oh yes, your face is all swollen.” You can tell how often I look in the mirror.

On the plus side, he put in one of those periochip things (rather than antibiotics), and didn't charge me. He is also VERY good looking, so at least I could indulge in some outrageous fantasies while lying there being tortured.

So you can see why those awards are so cheering.

I think this calls for some drastic action. It could be a time to buy the DVD of Mamma Mia (reduced to £7 in a well known supermarket near me) and watch it, non-stop, all weekend. By Monday I'll be crazy, but I won't care.

Monday 24 November 2008

The Teapot Pub

Think of me in half an hour as I head off for an HOUR LONG session at the hygienist. But meanwhile onto more pleasant matters -

When is a pub not a pub.....
This is in December's edition of Cornwall Today – out now!

From the street, the Star and Garter in Falmouth’s High Street looks like any other town pub. But step inside and you’ll see a cornucopia of teapots: a tractor, unicorn, bull in a china shop, Ronald Reagan and the Queen with a corgi on her head are all depicted with spouts, parading on shelves at eye level.

Jane Collins is landlady of the Star & Garter, and arrived at the pub 22 years ago with 100 teapots. “I’ve got over 300 now and they’re all different,” she says. “I like the diversity of it. A couple are repeats but in different colours.” She smiles. “One of the most unusual ones is the Bunny Girl; her bottom comes off – I wish mine would!”

Jane started collecting teapots in 1977 after one of her brothers bought her one. “My first husband didn’t like the smell of tea – couldn’t stand it. I was given a teapot for my birthday - needless to say we weren’t married much longer!” She points to her first ever teapot. “That first one – it was really different. It has feet on it. Then I got one for Christmas which was a car and that was it – I was off!”

Jane has a theory about collectors. “I think if you didn’t have much when you were growing up, that’s when you surround yourself with things. It’s a family trait – my brothers all collect things as well.” She grins. “I tried collecting husbands but gave that up – I wasn’t very successful!”

The teapots come from many different sources; “Some come from car boot sales, ebay, and a very nice potter called Andy Titcomb in St Mabyn. He makes lovely teapots. The rest have all been presents.” But they are not all decorative: many have been used. “Those green and silver ones I had in London,” she says, pointing to a shelf near the bar. “They’re wonderful teapots. The toy ones haven’t got spouts, so they can’t be used.” She laughs. “And the knitted one doesn’t hold water either!”

“My favourite is that one,” Jane points to a teapot of a jumping fish. “It’s like a Stargazy teapot.” (After the Stargazy fish pie that originated in Mousehole.) “And the oldest is that black one over there – that belonged to my great grandmother.” But teapots are not just English – Jane has one from Russia and one from Australia, “and if someone asks about a particular teapot I know where they all are.” Which is some feat, given the shelves adorning every wall of the pub.

This collection is priceless in one aspect, though Jane has never spent more than £40 on a teapot. “Some of the ones I like best were 50p,” she says. “It’s not the price that’s important. But most have been given to me.”

Deservedly, Jane is well known in Falmouth as having a big heart. “When I came here I started cooking Christmas lunch for regulars on their own – now it’s family and friends. There were 18 of us last year and there are usually about that many.” She grins. “Any excuse for a party, really!”

The pub is also the headquarters of the famous Marine Band, now celebrating its 20th anniversary. “Back in 1989 several people wanted to set up a band for carnivals like Fowey Town Band,” she explains. “We were the only ones in the band who had a pub at the time, so we had room for meetings.” The Marine Band are renowned for raising a huge amount of money. “We’ve raised enough money for 3 electric wheelchairs and countless money for different charities,” Jane says proudly. “If you need help with anything, you write in and the band will consider it. If they agree they will raise money for your cause.”

But one aspect Jane will not be charitable over is her precious teapots. “They mean a lot but as I’m getting older I think of dusting them!” she says philosophically.
“If I left here I’d have to sell some because they take up so much room. But I wouldn’t sell all of them – it’d be like selling granny!” She frowns. “I’d miss them, particularly the unusual ones. I could get rid of about 50 but the other 250 are like family.” She pauses. “Though I don’t think my daughter would agree!”

Jane also collects bottle openers and pourers, tucked away in a display near the window. These have the advantage of taking up less space than the teapots. “And I collect paintings of the staff and customers by Steve Taylor, a local Falmouth artist.” She points to a large painting at the top of the stairs. “There I am, done in oils, on canvas. Naked apart from a towel and a smile!” These colourful, humorous oil paintings adorn the walls of the pub and are big enough to detract the eye from Jane’s teapots.

“Most people don’t even notice the teapots,” muses Jane. “Some have been pinched – around Christmas time there are usually gaps. I could tie them all down but it’s rather sad if you can’t trust people.” There has also been the odd breakage. “Oh yes. A bit of superglue’s been necessary at times.”

Jane has had offers from people wanting to buy the teapots. “Someone came in once and said ‘I want this teapot for my boy, how much is it?’ and I said, ‘it’s not for sale,’ He then said, ‘I could smash you in the face and take it. I was being nice and asking you,’” She laughs. “He went away – without the teapot. We don’t get many of those!”

Jane looks round the pub and sighs. “I’ve had to stop collecting because I’ve run out of room,” she says. Then her eyes light up. “Perhaps I could fit another shelf in over the window there. That’s another 50 teapots. Or perhaps I could hang them from the beams…”

Star & Garter
52 High Street
TR11 2AF
01326 318313

Friday 21 November 2008

Losing a Loved One

Last week a friend rang me, deeply unhappy. One of her dogs, who'd had a very bad cough for months, had a tumour and had to be put down. This friend of mine is one of those generous people who will always look after nature's lost causes (I count humans in amongst those). If anytime you need something to do something, she will do it. And she'd never think of asking for money, when she could do with it. She is generous to a fault, always puts herself last, and at times rails against injustice in the world – against herself or her loved ones.

For those of you who don't have pets, they do take up a huge amount of our hearts. When something happens to them,it is utterly agonising. Not the same as losing a child, but not far off.

I asked this friend whether she was going to get another dog (she has a chocolate lab, so at least she's not entirely bereft of canine company).
“No,” she cried. “I couldn't bear to lose another one. It's far too painful. I never want to go through this again.”

This reminded me of a friend who lost her cat about a year ago and when I asked if she'd like a rescue cat as a present, she was vehement. “NO, Flowerpot,” she said. “I'm not having another cat. Ever. I can't bear it.”

She came round last night and we were talking about the rescue centre at Hayle, how if it hadn't been for Bussie, we might well have brought another dog back. “But Bussie would have packed his bags and left,” said Himself.

“Oh,” said Lyn and her face lit up. “He can come and live with me. I'd unseal the catflap for Bussie.”

I was telling this to an 80 year old friend who has had countless Old English Sheepdogs.

“Oh yes,” said Betty and laughed. “We all say that. And after a while, we go and get another one.”

Losing a loved one is never easy, whoever they are. I still have wonderful memories of my first cat, Minnie, an adorable tortoiseshell brought up by a labrador on a goat farm (her feline instincts were a little confused though she was a great mouser).

My last cat, Cyd, lived until the age of 18 and at the age of 16 took on a toyboy. I'd watch them frolicking together in the garden – like Margot Fonteyn with Nureyev, Cyd really did have a second lease of life.

When Cyd died, I couldn't stop crying for days. I couldn't bear having no one to feed in the mornings, no black little face yowling at me over the bedclothes. I hated coming home to an empty house, no black creature rubbing her haunches against my ankles. No one could replace Cyd, and I wouldn't want to, but I hated not having a cat.

My sister in law advised, “get another cat, completely different, as soon as possible.”

Instead of a female black cat, we ended up with a male rescue kitten, white with black splodges, who'd been abandoned over Christmas (can you imagine?) and after that, there was little time to be miserable.

In memory of Cyd, Himself suggested we made a collage of some of the best pictures of her, which now hangs up in the living room. I can look at those pictures now with a smile and remember what a loveable tyrant she was.

I'm sure that her spirit still lives on – come to think of it, Mollie's very like her...

Tuesday 18 November 2008

A whirlwind few days

An action packed weekend that kicked off with my mother arriving on Friday night. This coincided with me returning from walking Moll, while Himself “warmed the place up” for my mother. Bearing in mind it's hardly cold, and we're trying to economise at the moment, I got back to find the woodburner pumping out heat, the central heating on as well and my mother growing pinker by the second. I opened all the windows, turned the heating off, opened the front door and gradually the flat returned to an ambient temperature. Credit crunch? You wouldn't think so down here...

Anyway, on Saturday we went to see the house that was my mother's home – she was born and lived there till she was married from there. It's now a restaurant and you can imagine her mixed feelings as she looked at the summerhouse where she'd had lessons, at the playroom that was now a dining room, at the fireplace where her wedding pictures had been taken. I hovered by like an anxious mother hen (daughter hen?), anticipating her mixed emotional response. We couldn't see the room she'd been born in which might have been a good thing, but we had a look in the garden and at what had been the old garages, and mum had a bucket full of memories to take home with her.

Next stop was lunch at a dog friendly pub in Gwithian – the Red River pub. I'm writing a feature on 10 of the best Dog Friendly pubs in Cornwall, so naturally we had to sample some. This place was great – nothing special inside but so friendly and the owner and bar staff adore dogs which is a bonus. Food was great – lovely bowlfuls of carrot and sweet potato soup – and then we took Mollie for a good long run along Godrevy Beach. Mum's favourite childhood beach.

Last stop of the afternoon was the National Animal Welfare Trust rescue centre where I interviewed the manager a month ago. They've just moved into larger premises so I was keen to see how they were getting on. The new kennels are fabulous and Louise and her staff have worked so hard to ensure that the dogs and cats are happy and well looked after. It was agonising though, to see two very special little terriers that I longed to take home.....

We returned home (minus extra animals, to the cat's relief: he swore he'd leave home otherwise) and then had our cousins from Penzance for a musical evening which was a wonderful end to the day.

Sunday I did a walk for the magazine at Chapel Porth with my photographer friend and her partner and Moll, and yesterday was spent frantically writing that up. Got another rejection for the novel but then a request to see first three chapters, so it just goes to prove how subjective the whole process is...

Thursday 13 November 2008

Generosity isn't dead

The good news is that the Western Morning News are to feature this blog in a Westountry blog spot in a few weeks. More details when I have them!

The bad news is more teeth problems causing yet more money to be extracted (though thankfully no more teeth extracted as yet – that could well come later, in which case I will be known as Gappy). But enough of boring things like dentists and gum disease. Perhaps if I tell them I'm a freelance journalist writing a piece on periodontal disease, I might get discounted treatment? Dream on, Flowerpot.

On a completely different topic, I am, as some of you know, reduced to tears very easily. Why, I know not – put it down to hormones, if you like. I don't always cry because I'm unhappy, either. I could be enjoying a particularly wonderful piece of music, or a marvellous sunset and the tears will drip down my cheeks, or cascade down my nose, depending on the extremity of emotions incurred. As Himself says, “you're the only person I know who cries at the weather forecast,” which is a slight exaggeration.

On the other hand, in case anyone thinks I'm a pushover, I can be very fierce when needs be. Hurt my husband, any of my friends or family and there will be Big Trouble. Right? In the course of my job, I endure so many rejections that if I didn't develop a tough shell I wouldn't survive.

I suppose Mollie takes after me - shaggy haired, untidy and tough on the outside, but soft and cuddly on the inside.

I was having lunch with a friend I hadn't seen for ages the other day in a tiny cafe in Falmouth. At that time we were the only occupants, then three teenage girls came in, whispering and muttering over the menu.

From what we could gather, they only had enough money for a jacket potato between them, so they sat down and ordered that.

“I'm sorry,” said the owner of the cafe, “but it is lunchtime – you have to order at least a drink.”

More muttering from the girls, turning out of purses. Leaning forward, conferring in agonised whispers - rather like University Challenge, but they were a few years off that, and the stakes were higher. This was Food.

At this point we got up, fetched our coats and as we passed the girls, my friend handed them a fiver. “Here,” she said. “Early Christmas present. Buy yourselves some drinks.”

Their stunned, delighted faces made my day, and I gulped, overwhelmed and proud of such a generous gesture. That's when I burst into tears.

Monday 10 November 2008

A Childhood Walk

This walk is in this month's Cornwall Today with wonderful pictures by Rebecca Taunton. If you are anywhere near a newsagent that has the November edition, it's well worth looking at just for RT's pictures!

A walk along part of the cycle trail, through old mining country

One overcast afternoon, my dog Mollie and I set off with a friend for a circular walk around her childhood stamping ground of Bissoe. We piled into my van and took the A39 from Falmouth to Truro; at the Devoran roundabout at the bottom of the hill we took the turning marked Bissoe. This led under a viaduct, past Bissoe Cycle Hire and we took the first small turning on the right opposite a garage. Several hundred yards later we came to a granite post saying Wheal Andrew and a little further down the road we parked in a large layby on the right.

From here we walked 100 yards on and took a steep rocky lane on the left by a granite sign to Twelveheads. This area is known as Wheal Fortune and the land here was once the most expensive in Cornwall. From 1819 Wheal Fortune formed the easternmost part of the Great Gwennap Consolidated Mines, which was once the largest copper mine in the world. Although it worked for tin at an early period, it was as a copper mine that it became important. But cheaper ores were being mined abroad, and in England the price of copper fell from £115 to £80 a ton. In 1870 Wheal Fortune was abandoned and across Cornwall many miners emigrated to work in Australia and North America. There is little sign of wealth now: only a few scattered houses in amongst granite, bracken and heather; across the fields the only sound was the cry of a solitary cockerel.
We followed this path up the hill, down past Arley Cottage on the right, crossed over a road and continued over, passing clumps of puffball mushrooms, like dun coloured pincushions. Up the hill we walked, past Fernysplatt Bal, disused mine dumps and mine workings. Oak leaves were already turning here, and the blackberries were out in abundance.

At the top of the hill we took a left fork, past White Cottage on the left, and followed this rocky path downhill through thick mud churned up by cycle tracks. We looked over high hedges onto fields of lush tall grass, heard the mew of a young buzzard overhead, and at the end of the footpath we turned right into a small road. A thin watery sunshine came out as we walked through the tiny hamlet of Coombe Hill, where we passed Clifford House on our left and an orchard studded with bright red apples and the last netted raspberries.

Further down the road we realised we were descending into a dense wooded valley where the river rumbled noisily below us, orange gold rosehips peeked from the hedges and a dog barked in the distance.

At the bottom of this road we turned right and first left at a Public Footpath sign, partly obscured by an oak tree laden with green acorns, and entered another small hamlet. Here were stables on our right, and a rusty dustbin perched incongruously on the bank of a fast running stream. Further on we turned left to follow another Public Footpath sign, over a bridge where the stream swelled to a river, then plunged into a whirling eddy. Here the slender trees were throttled with thick veins of ivy, and the path was heavy with mud. Rooks have been known to nest in nearby Cusgarne School but today they cawed above us, black shadows in the sky.

The path suddenly opened out into a tarmac area and we passed Calico Cottage before arriving at Hicks Mill Methodist Church, built in 1821, though the deeds go back to 1667 and there was once a corn mill on this site.

We peered through the windows of this well maintained building before walking through the car park out onto a road and turned immediately left, along a quiet road past Mount Pleasant Farm on the right. This led to another crossroads where we turned left. Over the granite bridge we turned left onto the official cycle trail from Devoran to Portreath; this is a smoother track, popular with cyclists of all ages and sizes. As we walked, two cyclists in red and yellow jerseys sped past, ringing their bells loudly.

We walked over another wooden bridge, and noticed red water flowing in the stream below: this was from heavy metals that leaked into the water when Wheal Jane mine flooded in 1991, leaching toxic mine waste that travelled as far as Restronguet Creek.

The ground opened up here into flat moorland with gorse, purple heather and blackberries in abundance – a natural buffet for myself and Mollie. Up on our right, disembodied voices floated down from the cement works that looked like an eerie James Bond set. Mount Wellington looked down from the left, and all around us was Bissoe Valley Nature Reserve owned by the Wildlife Trust. A restoration programme set up in 1986 has ensured that there is newly planted woodland, ponds and regenerating heathland in this area and we saw evidence of this: a pond with huge lemon coloured waterlillies in amongst the reeds, dragonflies and emerald damsel flies.

Further on we came to what looked like a solitary mine engine but is in fact what was left of the Point Mills Arsenic Refinery, that produced arsenic famous for its high quality throughout Europe. A plaque told us that the refinery operated for 100 years ending with the outbreak of World War Two.

Nearing the road we passed a field full of large rabbits which Mollie tried to chase, and a pony which she thankfully didn’t. We headed towards the road, turned left and immediately right to Bissoe Cycle Hire where we sat outside the cafĂ© and enjoyed mugs of tea and slices of fruit cake, though their cream teas and flapjacks looked very tempting. Despite the proximity to the arsenic works!
Leaving the cycle hire behind, we headed onto a narrow and muddy path where the sun broke through the clouds and a flock of crows chattered above, followed by a solitary egret. Further on we saw a dragonfly, its turquoise wings glittering in the faint light, proof that the conservation efforts are working here.

Soon we forked right and met up with another bridlepath. This was smoother which made walking easier and a little further on we hit the official cycle trail. To our right towered a mine waste dump which my friend said she had played on as a child. Not something that would be allowed in these health and safety conscious days!
We finally arrived back at Wheal Andrew, turned right and walked along the road to the layby where we’d left the van. Mollie was covered in mud, but she gave a happy sigh and flopped into her basket, eyeing the bag of blackberries hopefully as we drove home.

This walk gives a real insight into one of the mining areas of Cornwall, undisturbed and ancient, where the air is heavy with history.

Length: 3 1/4 miles
Time: 1 ½ - 2 hours
Grade: moderate but can be muddy in places so boots are advised
Maps: OS Explorer 104 Redruth & St Agnes
Refreshments: Available at Bissoe Tramways Cycle Hire.
Over 100 Bikes Open all year. Old Conns Works, Bissoe Truro, TR4 8QZ
Tel:- 01872 870341
Areas of historical/other interest: The old Mineral Tramways from Devoran to Portreath is an interesting ride for the average cyclist - the route follows what were working rail tracks that carried minerals (tin, copper etc) to the ancient quays at Devoran or the harbour at Portreath.
Mount Wellington Mine was once part of Wheal Jane and one of the last 3 working mines in Cornwall during the 1980s.

Friday 7 November 2008

Bad Mouth News conquered by Belief

Nearly two years ago now I had a really bad time with my mouth – endless chronic toothache, abscesses etc which led to a course of very expensive periodontal treatment to treat my gum disease.

Having parted with a Huge amount of money, I was set on the road to recovery – or stability, as once the damage has been done, you can't entirely reverse it. And I continued to brush my teeth, floss them and poke at bits with interdental sticks, three times a day. I went back for a 3 month check up in July and all was well. I was looking after my gums as I should, and I got a pat on the back. I also got a VAST bill for a 20 minute checkup.

I asked my NHS dentist (who suggested I should continue to see this private hygienist – doesn't say much for his hygienist) if he could recommend someone else as the private bunch are extortionately expensive. It's not just me that says that either. My dentist recommended another fellow and I'm waiting for an appointment to see him next week.

Last weekend I began to have twinges in my mouth. Bad ones. On Monday I realised my gums in front were inflamed and very sore. I went back to see Very Expensive hygienist yesterday who confirmed that my gums were in a Bad Way. She said that I'd “slipped” with brushing them. “I haven't,” I said, with my mouth wide open, stung with injustice. “But I was concentrating on the teeth at the back that are the problem ones, and forgot the front ones.”

She looked at me then and said, “have you had a lot of stress recently?”

I thought back – it's been quite a year, emotionally. “Yes,” I said. “Menopause, insomnia, financial worries.”

When I got to insomnia she nodded. “That'll be it,” she said. “Your gums are your weak spot and if you're under a lot of stress, unless you're really careful, they'll suffer.”

So I trundled back home feeling miserable, as if I'd failed, and with a mouth that felt as if it had been attacked with a cheese grater. I managed to rationalise it all but then I woke in the night feeling terrible. After all that brushing and STILL I got it wrong.

I went back to sleep eventually but I told Himself this morning how I felt. “Of course you're upset,” he said. “Anyone would be. But you do brush your teeth properly and I'll bloody well tell them so, silly *****ers.”

I began to feel better. But he hadn't finished.

“You'll get your gums get better really quickly, like you did last time,” he said. “Just remember, Pop, you can do anything you want.”

What a star.

Monday 3 November 2008

Birthday Boy and Lusting...

Yesterday was Himself's birthday, and as he'd already had his main present (a pair of shoes), we started off celebrating on Saturday meeting a mutual friend for a drink. He'd had loads of cards – nearly all from women I would add – and friends of mine (I can tell by the writing on the envelopes).

“Of course,” said Deb. “It just shows how highly you're regarded.”

He went a bit pink after that and got up to get himself a brandy.

So yesterday was Fun Day. We got to Truro early afternoon, went to Tesco to get him a present - and ended up with some badly needed thermal socks – and then – the Fun Bit..... Quantum of Solace.

I happen to think Daniel Craig is one of the sexiest men around. I quite appreciate many do not, but he Does It for me. So I sat and prepared myself for 2 hours of drooling.

The only criticism, from Himself, is that while there is a huge amount of action (for which read violence) there weren't a lot of laughs with those old one-liners. Apparently they'd tried and it just didn't work. Mind you, as I pointed out, this is a man with a mission – and it's Revenge for the woman he loved, who died. So you're not going to get a lot of laughs.

The action was non stop (which meant I had to hide for quite a bit) but the rest of it was – well, sigh.... Lovely.

Afterwards we met up with some friends who bought Himself a birthday drink in the pub up the road and Andrea and I sat wondering if we were doing to dream about Daniel C that night.

Sadly, neither of us did.