Thursday 30 July 2009

Holidays and Bowen Therapy

Next week we're off on holiday. I say that rather grandly – in fact we've booked a campsite for Sunday night in Padstow (so you can guarantee what the weather's going to do) and then head on up to Devon to see friends, my mum and generally have a very cheap time away.

Not having been away for ages, I feel in need of a break. Away from the computer, and recharge my batteries which are feeling a bit flat. If my sleep pattern is disrupted I know something's up, though this isn't helped by Bussie stanking into the bedroom at about 5 every morning (just as I'm trying to get back to sleep having been awake for a while). He patrols the bed like a country landlord, dripping wet fur in my face (this morning), then hissing at the dog who had just crept up for a comforting cuddle. After about half an hour of this, Himself grunts and gets up to feed them both then we have peace until it's time to get up, around 7. I'm all in favour of turfing Bussie off the bed but Himself is horrified, says, 'you can't do THAT.'

Why not? Anyone know of a cat whisperer?

But talking of matters animal, I interviewed a lady who has four jobs. She runs a surf school for women (and children) in Newquay, she is also a sports therapist, a complementary therapist and a lecturer at Truro College. She practises Bowen Therapy on dogs which can be used to help dogs in pain, with degenerative illnesses, very nervous animals, those with skin allergies or hip or knee problems – in fact, all kinds of problems.

For those of you unsure about this, she is very highly qualified and only works alongside her vet. (Having talked to my own vet about it, she was very unsure, so I need to convince her too.)

What we weren't prepared for was her dog - Douglas, a massive black Newfoundland like a cross between a horse and a black bear. You can imagine little Moll's face....

Off now – back in ten days or so. Just to be on the safe side I am packing waterproof trousers, swimsuit and a mobile library....

Thursday 23 July 2009

Godrevy Light

Good pics in this month's Cornwall Today - and it turned out that Charles knew my mother when they were young!

A celebration of inspiration – and marriage

The jagged line of rocks off Godrevy Point, on the north eastern headland of St Ives Bay, lies right across the natural navigation course for the harbours of Hayle and St Ives. The reef claimed a succession of victims culminating in the loss of steamship Nile with all souls in 1854. This tragic incident caused a national outcry and prompted Trinity House to build a light at Godrevy. The resulting lighthouse is a beautiful and iconic structure, the inspiration of artists, photographers, poets and writers including Virginia Woolf.

In 1955, Charles Thomas, 26, met 17 year old Jessica Mann at an archaeological dig at Godrevy. They married several years later, and the lighthouse has continued to influence their lives. To celebrate their Golden Wedding, and the 150th anniversary of the first lighting of Godrevy lighthouse, they have written Godrevy Light, a book that records its history and explains how it is represented in art and literature.

In the early 1920s Charles' grandfather bought the northern part of Gwithian Parish and several miles of the North Cliffs, which he later gave to the National Trust to stop the land being developed. “It's one of the few unspoilt pieces of the Cornish coastline,” Charles explains. “Again and again I find myself at Godrevy, watching the gale driven waves breaking over the Island.”

Charles Thomas is well known as an archaeologist, Bard of the Gorsedd, founder of the Institute of Cornish Studies, researcher, author and excavator. The Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall presented him with the Jenner Medal in 2008 saying, “Professor Thomas’s contribution to Cornish life and understanding is unparalleled. History, language, archaeology, folklore, art, place names, dialect, military history, landscape, Methodism – these and much more have come under his scrutiny. He truly is a Cornish Polymath”.

Jessica Mann has written over 20 crime novels and non-fiction books. As a journalist she has written for national newspapers and as a broadcaster has appeared on television and radio. She has been on the board of many different companies, involved with the NHS, been a Planning Inspector, a 'water watchdog', and is a member of the Arts Council.

Despite both being prolific writers in their different fields, this is the first time they have collaborated on a book. “I don't think collaboration's a good idea,” says Jessica firmly. “I think we would not be having a 50th wedding anniversary if we had done any more!”

The idea grew from their joint interest in contemporary art and their many artist friends. “There's no pleasure like buying a picture,” says Jessica. “Our house is absolutely full of them, though only half are of the lighthouse. Once people know that you're interested in it, they give them to you as well.” She smiles reflectively. “Some of our especially treasured ones have been given to us by the artists themselves - Terry Frost, Kurt Jackson, John Miller. That adds a special dimension to enjoying them.”

The book is based on a pamphlet Charles wrote years ago about Godrevy lighthouse which now changes hands on Ebay for surprising sums,” Jessica explains. “We were wondering what to do about celebrating our marriage and we thought it would be fun to do something we could give to people as presents rather than receiving anything, and it grew from there.”

The book is illustrated by works of art by members of the St Ives art colony, other Cornish painters and craftsmen and visitors to Cornwall. Artists represented include Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Trevor Corser, Garstin Cox, Sir Terry Frost, Rose Hilton, Kurt Jackson, Andrew Lanyon, Jeremy Le Grice, Margo Maeckelberghe, Daphne McClure, John Miller, Charles Sim Mottram, Sidney Nolan, Julius Ollson, Jane O’Malley, Bryan Pearce, Robert Borlase Smart and Francis Raymond Spenlove. Many other artefacts, photographs, maps and souvenirs are included.

Jessica bought their first painting of the lighthouse from the vicar of St Ives who was intending to send it to a jumble sale. “I smuggled it back to our house, to give to Charles for our first Christmas together,” she says. “It was 1959, exactly 100 years since the light first shone from Godrevy.”

The couple now have two sons, two daughters and ten grandchildren, most of whom were christened at Gwithian Chapel, a building that has attracted visitors from all over the world. “It's a Grade II star listed building and next year will be its 200th anniversary,” says Charles, who recently had the building restored by English Heritage. “It's the only thatched chapel in Cornwall.” Charles has been connected with the chapel since the 1950s when he was a chapel steward. “It's now a charity with 5 trustees and has a Letter of Consent which means we operate as a Methodist church but work very closely with the local parish church.”

To add to Charles and Jessica's considerable accomplishments is their 50 years of marriage which, as Charles says, “It's quite an achievement, isn't it?”
“I think we're probably an extinct species to have stayed married so long!” adds Jessica. Part of their Golden Wedding celebrations included the publication of Godrevy Light at a launch party in St Ives, with the lighthouse shimmering in a heat haze.

“Godrevy was not famous when we began to collect the pictures and objects that illustrate this book,” says Jessica. “It's changed enormously, partly due to the Virginia Woolf effect – it appeared in To the Lighthouse. It's also because people get around much more than they used to. And also because wetsuits have completely transformed the seaside in the last 15 years. Now people can go to the beach all year round and stay there all day. That's why it's so crowded, even in winter.”

In 2005, when the lighthouse was threatened with closure, there were worldwide protests. “The lighthouse has become an icon,” Jessica explains. “Many people think it's their special place – as we do – so we thought they would like to see this book. The lighthouse is objectively terribly beautiful,” she pauses, and a smile can be heard in her voice. “It really is a lovely sight, no matter what.”

Godrevy Light by Charles Thomas and Jessica Mann is published in hardback by Twelveheads Press of Chacewater, price £18. and from Cornish bookshops, Amazon etc.

Thursday 16 July 2009

The Interloper

When we returned from Mum's 80th birthday party last weekend, Mollie immediately made a bee line for an old rack in the hall. On the bottom rung were some old sheets, but Molls sniffed and sniffed so I pulled one out – and shrieked. There, rolled up in the back, was a large hedgehog.

We took it outside, put it in a box and inspected it. It was crawling with fleas and tics (lovely) so I fled back inside and sprayed everything with anti-flea spray- with Moll's itching I'm not risking anything – and threw all the sheets in the washing machine.

Then we tended to Mr Hedgehog who, I have to say, had the twinkliest eyes and the neatest little hands I'd ever seen. We fed him milk and biscuits and were going to take him out to the workshop and let him go there but Himself was concerned about the tics. So we rang the RSPCA who arrived an hour or so later, assured us that all hedgehogs are infested with tics and fleas, and took him off to release him in pastures new.

Shame, I was quite getting used to our new friend – it had such a lively, intelligent face - and apparently they're great for eating slugs. But it will be happier out running free, even if it doesn't get free food.

Many thanks to all re Moll's predicaments. She had her blood tests, at vast expense, and we should get the results soon. As for her legs, well it's both knee caps that are dodgy, so it's shorter but more frequent walks, no jumping and lots of swimming. Surgery is something that we might have to consider at a later date but I'm trying not to think about that right now.

The most extraordinary thing is that I pitched an idea to my editor yesterday to write a piece on the Bowen Technique for dogs. She said yes - an ideal one for me. And now I've been researching it, the technique is something that Mollie's leg condition could really benefit from. Is that divine intervention or what?

Thursday 9 July 2009

Itchings and Blessings

Poor Molls has had a bad few weeks. First of all her itching has come back and until she can have a blood test to ascertain what she is allergic to, she can't have any steroids to stop the itching. So she's currently on a very low dose of antihistamines, twice weekly antifungal shampoo baths and being treated with a steroid spray every day. Thankfully this seems to be working and she's not itching nearly so much - it was terrible watching her scratch and scratch, especially at night, and we felt so helpless being unable to help her.

On top of that, it turns out she has something wrong with the ligaments in her left leg. This means that the knee socket can pop out when she runs (though it pops back immediately and doesn't seem to hurt her). Still, it needs looking at more closely when she's sedated next week, and having had a week of Short Walks on the lead (and I don't know who felt more frustrated, her or me), she is now on slightly longer walks but No Running. Swimming is good though so we did that yesterday afternoon as well.

The worst case scenario is that the leg could have to be operated on as the wear and tear on the joint could cause arthritis. But I'm not even going there.....

So what with three vet trips in a week, and another big one next week for the blood tests, my bank account is beginning to look somewhat anorexic. Still, it's all worth it.

The good news is that I interviewed a young couple yesterday who have set up a very good bakery in Falmouth using local products and organic flour. Their flapjack is the best I've ever had, so I thought they would be good for a food piece for the magazine. What I hadn't expected was to meet such an enterprising couple who have really thought out their business, enjoy what they do and intend to keep it that way rather than expand. “We want to be able to enjoy what we do and the lovely place we live in,” they said. And why not?

It struck me this morning that this job is all about discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary. And what a joy that is.

P.S. It's my mother's 80th birthday party this weekend. Whole family gathering for a meal on Saturday night. And believe me, getting everyone together in one place takes years of planning. Guess what? My eldest neice has contracted swine flu from being out in Cyprus and the whole family are in quarantine. So we will be minus 5 members of the family..... you can imagine how my mother is feeling.

Thursday 2 July 2009

Godrevy Light

This week I've had several interviews which have caused me to meet some really fascinating people.

First of all I interviewed the new Commanding Officer at RAF St Mawgan (Newquay airport to most of us). The airport is the only one in Cornwall and last December it closed and the future looked bleak. Now it's open again and Wing Commander Paul Loader is in charge.

Not having had anything to do with the military, it's always interesting finding out why and how people change careers. In his case his rugby career was ending and he wanted new challenges, which he has achieved through the RAF.

One of his favourite places in Cornwall is Gwithian (or Godrevy) which leads me neatly on to my next interview, with a well known couple who have just published a book about Godrevy Lighthouse. They met on an archaelogical dig there over 50 years ago, married soon after and have been together ever since. He's Charles Thomas, an archaelogist/researcher/author and excavator. She's Jessica Mann, crime writer and author of several non-fiction books; also a journalist and broadcaster. Oh and she's also been a water watchdog, a Planning Inspector and several other high profile jobs as well as being on the board of countless institutions.

I met them at their home, a beautiful ex-farmhouse not far from Truro but in a rural spot, with a stunning garden. Their house was just how I would imagine an old family home to be – slate flagstones on the floor, and the house filled with paintings and books.

We sat outside for our interview, and they talked while I made notes, and in the background the birds twittered and sang and the sun shone down on us like a blessing. I loved hearing the story of how they met, to see some of the many paintings they have accumulated of Godrevy Lighthouse in their 50 years of marriage, and felt very privileged to meet them. It made me truly proud to be Cornish.

Last night we went to the launch party of the book, called Godrevy Light, in St Ives. There we stood on a balcony in the sun and drank wine or Pimms and in the background was the lighthouse, shimmering in the heat. Never has St Ives Bay looked so beautiful to me; the lighthouse a proud icon in the background.

Godrevy Light by Charles Thomas and Jessica Mann is published in hardback by Twelveheads Press of Chacewater, price £18.
It is also available from Cornish bookshops, Amazon etc.

And now, it's back to real life. Two lots of copy to be in by tomorrow, and torrential rain has caused our back yard to flood..... Himself has been out to check the drains which are blocked. Water is seeping in our kitchen under the door, and the toilet is backing up so we're having to pee in a bucket. I've rung South West Water who say they are sending someone soon. I hope so – we need a life raft!