Thursday 26 February 2009

Losing Friends and Gaining - what?


Like several other bloggers, I have lost two friends in the past week, both to cancer. So this has to be one of the most uplifting pictures I've been sent recently.

I feel desperately sorry for one of the partners, who's a lot younger and was so very close to her partner. His death was sudden, though he didn't suffer. She is strong, intelligent and very talented; a very special person. She will get through this, but she doesnt realise this right now.

The other friend's health had gradually deteriorated over the last few years and while I think leaving this life must have been a huge relief for her, I wish she hadn't had to suffer for so long.

The strange thing is, both funerals are at the same time on the same day. Unfortunately one is in Cornwall and the other in Devon, which means I can't attend both, but my Mum is going to the one in Devon and will represent both of us which is some comfort.

Losing these friends has made me reflect on life as well as realising the importance of grief. All we can do is be there for our friends, to hold their hands when they need us, to cry and laugh with them and think of the good memories, not focus on our loss.

It's made me realise how much we must value every day that we have. Enjoy Friends, Fun and Families. Be enthusiastic, empathetic and caring.

It's my birthday on Saturday and I will raise a glass to all my friends, whether with me or not, wherever they are.

Who knows what life has in store for us?

Sunday 22 February 2009

Happy Endings in a Pub

The other night we had a Mamma Mia night in our local pub – a lovely gathering of mostly women (no surprise there) plus Himself as the Token Male. It came about because Jane, the landlady, must be one of the few women over 50 who hadn't managed to get to see Mamma Mia. Other persuading factors included Februrary being a highly (that should be lowly) depressing month, and business in pubs everywhere is dire. So I got hold of a copy of the DVD, we all told our friends, and turned up at the pub at 7.30.

We had a quick natter beforehand and then snuck into a corner of the pub to watch the DVD and have a few more drinks. To get into the spirit of things, the chef even sent us up bowls of popcorn. We ignored the ribald snorts of derision from other drinkers (not many, and they obviously didnt know what they were missing), got out our hankies and settled down for two hours of blissful escapism.

This was my third time of watching and I wept and laughed my way through it and enjoyed it just as much as the previous two times. As my American friend Izzy said, “there'd have to be something seriously the matter with you not to come away feeling good”.

BUT – and I wouldn't have noticed this where it not for my observant husband - at the end, the daughter says goodbye to her three (possible) fathers and gets into the boat. By herself. Boyfriend isn't there.

So what's that all about? At the non-wedding,she decides to go off travelling with boyfriend – so where's he?

Himself thinks that she is doing what Piers Brosnan said she should do – which is what Donna did: go away from the island and see life and then come back and settle down.

What do you think?

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Slumdogs and happy endings

Again I have been so touched by all your kind comments. I am slowly improving!

I went to see Slumdog Millionaire just after having tooth removed, which probably wasn't very good timing, but i was keen to see the film and it was the last opportunity in Falmouth. If anyone hasn't seen it - well. I really didnt think I would survive the first hour. The scenes of the slums are horrific. Brilliantly shot. Nightmare enducing.

Slumdog took on a different meaning as the poison from the infection seeped into my mouth, not helped by feeling as if my jaw had had an argument with a particularly aggressive crowbar.

The next day, visions of the slums still shot through my head, and my face was blown up like a hamster on the offending side. But infections apart, the film is horrifying but brilliant. Don't go unless you're feeling strong. (And I wanted to know what happened to him - and her - once he'd got the money. But there you go.)

On a completely different topic, I had a phone call from a dear friend this morning who has been unlucky - or perhaps lucky - in love many times. She's been on her own since her last marriage broke up several years ago, though her family are always around and she has many friends and admirers.

Recently, she met someone and they have been meeting. Talking. Going to films. Sharing meals. Taking it slowly. When her marriage broke up, she despaired, thinking she would never find anyone to love again.

But - "I looked in the mirror this morning and I had a big grin," she said. "I thought - perhaps I have a boyfriend!"

So this is for anyone out there feeling unloved and unwanted.
Love can happen in the most unexpected of places.
And often, it does.

Friday 13 February 2009

Hamsters and Literary Agents

Many thanks to you all for your kind thoughts. I've had an ongoing abscess which, together with disturbed nights, has laid me low. Yesterday I finally had The Offending Tooth removed which was one of the most painful experiences ever – post operative. I won't go into details, suffice to say that I now look like a lop sided hamster and am high on a cloud of Nurofen. Work is out of the question, given the state of my brain, so I'm about to head for the depths of the sofa and a cuddle with Moll.

My mum is arriving tomorrow and, ever spurred on by the impending arrival of his mother-in-law, Himself decided to start on a frenzy of redecoration. The two tables in the kitchen have been stripped and are now back to original wood with their legs painted green. His one and only Good Brown Cardigan is now also green, as is Mollie's left flank but we won't go into that. He has to get some brown paint now to paint out the green so Mum doesn't see....

The bathroom is also repainted and that looks much brighter so he has earned lots of brownie points (apart from the cardigan).

So that's my Valentine's present – a revamped kitchen and bathroom – what more could a girl ask for?

Well for those of us writers, a critical eye is essential. I always give my work to one particular friend for her to cast her eye over, but when it comes to novels – well, that's a lot of work. We all get so close to our precious babies that it's vital to have someone else who can look at it objectively. But who to chose?

There are various people out there who offer this service – Hilary Johnson, The Literary Consultancy and many others. But a friend of mine has recently set herself up and offers very competitive rates as well as a very friendly ear and eye. Or two.

Take a look at her website – The Writer's Friend – and see what you think. She has helped me look at my work with new eyes, she has a good sense of humour (vital, I find) and she loves animals. What could be better?

So to all of you out there – Happy Valentine's tomorrow!

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Cat and Mouse

Flowerpot is somewhat indisposed.
Back shortly.
Keep well everyone.
See you very soon.

Friday 6 February 2009

The Mini-Break

When Mollie was nearly a year old, we decided to treat ourselves to a well earned break. I found a reasonably priced dog friendly B&B and one Saturday we arrived at a beautifully restored granite Victorian house just off the sea front and about ten minutes walk from Penzance town centre.

Later we had a leisurely walk along the sea front to a dog friendly pub, found a window seat and tucked into vast platefuls of whitebait that didn’t seem to go down no matter how much we ate. After a few glasses of wine we had an amble back to our bed and breakfast and decided to settle down for an early night.

Mollie, who’d been very good up until then, decided she didn’t like people banging doors and making noise down the corridor and barked, loudly, to tell them so. Every time she did so, I flinched, and this continued for the next hour until everyone was in bed. By this time Mollie was so unnerved by her surroundings that she wouldn’t settle unless I dangled one arm out of bed to stroke her at regular intervals.

At around five in the morning, when we’d probably accumulated two hours sleep between us, I stumbled off to the bathroom and my feet hit a wet spot. I dimly remembered Mollie scratching at the bedroom door earlier and now realised the significance of this. Tiptoeing round the room, I found a roll of kitchen paper and proceeded to blot up as much as I could, while wondering what the to do. Make a run for it? Own up?

When the sun came up and I could see properly, I attacked the stain feeling like the victim of some fairy tale, destined to spend my life scrubbing at an ever growing mark on a previously spotless carpet. Then I espied a hairdryer slotted into a rack by the basin. A gift from the gods! So I set about blow drying the carpet.

By the time Himself returned from walking a much happier dog, the carpet was cooked to perfection. I was hot and flustered and jumped in the shower wondering whether to Come Clean to the owners. On the other hand, they might present us with a bill for carpet cleaners. Even worse, a new carpet.

We put Mollie in the car and waited with baited breath for our breakfast. At any time I was expecting a hand on the shoulder. An “excuse me, but what happened to your carpet?”

Being good at bluffing, Himself soon got chatting to the new owners who revealed that they’d recently bought the place and evidently spent a considerable amount of time and money refurbishing it. I could feel the blood draining from my face as I sipped my tea. The appetite that I’d built up over the sleepless night disappeared along with my blood, and I tried not to look at the scrambled egg sitting before me. The imaginary bill for our stay grew and I fixed a smile on my face, wondering when we could leave the room.

Husband’s appetite wasn’t affected, and after a Full English we hurried upstairs to clean teeth and inspect the carpet. The sun was streaming in the room and from a certain angle it was impossible to see what had occurred in the small hours. Even so, we took no chances.

“I’ve got the bags,” Himself hissed. “Come on, let’s go.”

And we ran.

That was the last time we ever had a mini-break. Shame. I could do with one now, and it was such a lovely place.

Monday 2 February 2009

Gunwalloe Walk

Another walk, in February's edition of Cornwall Today. Seems like years ago...

A walk on the west coast of the Lizard,
taking in Church Cove, Mullion golf course and Poldhu Cove

After what seems like months of rain and wind, nature was smiling the day we set off for this walk. We were blessed with a Wedgewood blue sky and not a breath of wind as we travelled south from Helston past Culdrose airbase and turned right, taking signs for Gunwalloe. Heading towards Church Cove, we parked in a National Trust pay and display car park near Winnianton Farm.

On foot, we headed back up the road and noticed hundreds of starlings perched on the telegraph wires, chirping loudly. They weren't deterred by the bird scarer at Winnianton Farm, which sounded like a gun shot, startling us and making Mollie bark. Looking back we noticed the towans of Mullion golf course, players silhouetted on the horizon, and high above a helicopter from Culdrose flew over the headland.

The lane led steeply upwards, past an austere granite house which could have been the old rectory, with a moss encrusted roof, empty windows and towering narrow chimneys. Not somewhere I'd like to spend the night. The hedges were spiky, with gnarled and weather beaten branches, filled with an odd assortment of vegetation: a burst of honeysuckle in amongst the brambles; the bright buds of rosehips; teasel, like skinny hedgehogs with spindly arms.

At a layby at the top of the hill we turned right onto the coastal footpath, heading south towards Halzephron Cliffs – so called because “als” means Hell in Cornish, and “ephron” comes from the Cornish “yfarn” for cliff. If you look down at the rocks far below (which I didn't on account of my vertigo), you can see why it got its name.

This path was narrow and very muddy at the time of our walk, and at one point Mollie ventured rather too near the edge of the cliff for my liking, so with shaking hands and pounding heart I put her on the lead. Calmer, I looked out over Mounts Bay and was astounded by the view. A massive sweep of sea, majestic today in a slate blue robe with ermine waves. Down the coast we could see Mousehole and Lamorna, then on to Gwennap Head, and beyond that Land's End. In the middle of this huge expanse of water was a tiny fishing boat; a timely reminder of our insignificant size versus nature.

The waves rumbled far below us and seagulls gathered on the rocks like white studs, while their mates cried and wheeled above us. The dense hedges revealed a singular sunny burst of gorse, a surprise pink campion, and prickly heather. Walking round the headland we saw the ornate and magnificent white building which looks like a James Bond style hotel; I was sure I could see a helicopter pad next door. Apparently it's Poldhu nursing home, and I wondered who the residents are and what they think of their incredible view. Heading further south, we saw Goonhilly in the distance, while on a nearby gate a shy stonechat refused to be photographed, and we passed a field full of strange looking vegetables, like mangrove, but which turned out to be enormous swede.

Climbing down we reached Jangye-ryn, a rough beach with rock formations of special interest to geologists because the contorted strata of the cliffs represent 1,000s of years of tectonic movement. It is otherwise known as Dollar Cove, because a Spanish ship was apparently wrecked here in the 17th century and and silver dollars occasionally wash up on the beach. Today there were no geologists or gold bullions, but a golden winter sun dazzling the water, and surfers enjoying the waves.

Church Cove is separated from this beach by a 60 foot promontory that provides a good view of both beaches and the church of St Winwalloe. Apparently there was a church and settlement here in Domesday times, though the current church was built in 14th or 15th century and the tower is Norman. St Winwalloe's is unusual in that its small tower nestles in the inner bank of this headland, separate from the adjoining main body of the church and ancient graveyard. Another unusual aspect is its proximity to the beach – at spring tides with high winds, the spray must drench the front door.

St Winwalloe was of Cornish parentage, born in Brittany in the sixth century. There's a figure of him by the porch, a Cornish cross in the churchyard, and the church contains timbers from the Portuguese galleon 'St Anthony', which was wrecked in the cove on Saturday, 19 January, 1527.

This cove is dangerous and breathtaking: you can understand why so many ships were wrecked on this coast. We visited one Christmas Day and watched brave swimmers struggle out from the pounding surf to be rewarded with hot toddies by a bonfire. It gave Christmas Day a very special feel that stayed with me for years afterwards. Today there was only us, but Mollie bounded across the neighbouring dunes with joy, and we headed off over the National Trust Towans or golf course.

We weren't sure of the public right of way, but other dogwalkers reassured us we were on the right path so we waited for three golfers, lining up their shots. Mollie stood on her hindlegs on the little granite bridge, watching the men with studied amazement. This evidently put them off their strokes, and we hurried on, up a steep rocky path, with our heads down.

Past Mullion golf club, we took the lane south past a field of curious cows, intrigued by Mollie and Rebecca's camera. They soon grew bored and moved off, while on our right we noticed flocks of black headed gulls marching up and down the golf course, to the consternation of the players.

We walked down to Poldhu Cove, famous for being the place where the first transatlantic radio signal was sent in 1901. This cove was deserted today bar a few lone surfers, and the cafe was closed, so we headed north, back to Church Cove. Some of this rocky path has been dangerously eroded and rerouted inland (to my relief), pinpointed by signs saying Warning! Unstable Cliffs.

As we descended into Church Cove, spray from the waves pounded the cliffs and rose in a curtain of mist, covering the entire beach. Mollie and I examined dark and glistening caves as the tide swirled in around our feet, then returned to walk across the dunes to the car park.

The light was falling and a flock of starlings gathered to fly home in the dusk. Looking out over the green expanse of fields, not a house was to be seen; no cars, no sign of modern life. For that moment we could have been time travellers from long ago, enjoying the vast grandeur of Mounts Bay, and the little church of St Winwalloe peeping out from its tamarisk hedge.

OS Explorer 103 – the Lizard or National Trust Lizard West Coast leaflet
Distance: 3 ½ miles
Time: 1 -1½ hours
Grading: easy, but muddy at times
Facilities: public toilets near Winnianton Farm and car park
Nearest refreshments at the Halzephron Inn
Dogs banned on Church Cove from Easter to October 1st
Dogs are allowed year round on adjoining Dollar Cove
Historical/other interest: 15th century St Winwalloe church, built in the sand dunes on the beach
National Trust car park: £1 per day