Thursday 27 August 2009

Making Time and other mottos

This is a quiet spot by the River Dart where we sometimes walk Mollie when we're staying with my mum. While it might not seem to have anything to do with this post it does - trust me.

Recent events, including the announcement of A levels and GCSE results, have got me thinking about the tremendous amount of pressure that is placed on kids nowadays. Some of course have more pressure than others depending on where you live, it seems. South East England seems to be much more pressurised than us hicks down here in Cornwall (though us hicks still achieve very good results).

Of course everyone wants the best for their children. But at what cost? One of my closest friends has a daughter who moved down here from Sussex a few years ago. “It's such a relief just to be me, to be us,” she said. “Most people down here don't have money, so there's no pressure to keep up with the neighbours and all that.”

Life tends to be very much defined by What We Do rather than who we are, though of course one is often bound up very tightly in the other. I am fortunate in loving what I do – it's a constant challenge that on bad days is utterly chronic, but on good days makes me fulfilled and happy. But for a lot of my working life I haven't enjoyed what I've done, and I know there is little more soul destroying than trudging into a job you hate. It eeks the colour from your life, rips your confidence to shreds and makes you wonder if it's worth getting up in the morning.

Regardless of whether you enjoy work or not, I think it's worth remembering that life isn't all about achievement but about relationships too. Time is a precious commodity these days, but how can we have good relationships with others if we have no time for them?

I am fortunate in having a husband who is extremely generous, thoughtful and acute when it comes to people. He very much believes in making time for the people that matter in life, and this can be very humbling. Quite often I've felt tired, unsociable, like having a Saturday morning with just us, and it's our turn to take elderly James out. I protest on those occasions, and he will say, “It's not much to do, to take him out for an hour.” And of course he's right. Seeing the joy in James's face makes it all worthwhile.

My mum is a good example of making time for people. She has a very busy social life but she has a huge number of very good friends because she always makes time for them.

So perhaps my motto for this post would be to try and Make Time. Not by making your life busier, but by making it less busy (and I know how difficult this can be if you have children). Try and have time with and for your partner, your children, your dog, your parents, your family or your best friend. But most importantly, try and make time for yourself.

Thursday 20 August 2009

New Station Officer at RNAS Culdrose

This is in August editon of Cornwall Today.

Wing Commander Paul Loader has been appointed Station Commander at RAF St Mawgan. Born and raised in Cornwall, he is a keen sportsman and spent five years teaching Physical Education and outdoor activities before joining the RAF in 1992.

You were born in Illogan but have served in Bosnia, Holland and Germany. How has your upbringing in Cornwall influenced you?
Massively, because I was brought up outdoors, and on the beach which I love. It encouraged me to explore and my physical upbringing has been very useful to me as a Phys Ed teacher, rugby player and as part of the Military.

What made you decide to join the RAF?
I was coming towards the end of my rugby career and needed new challenges. Since then all my aspirations have been delivered by joining the Air Force, and now I am delighted and honored to take over command of RAF St Mawgan.

Military flying ended in December 2008, amid a lot of uncertainty – what role will RAF St Mawgan fulfill now and in the future?

I will be focusing on our engagement and involvement in the community and ensuring that the Station and its personnel continue to contribute and play an active and leading role in Cornwall. We are now specializing in ground training: adventure training, military skills, survival and decompression training, so we provide a holistic training centre for all three military services.

I am particularly pleased for our civilian personnel and all our friends in the community who have lived with uncertainty over recent years, and would like to thank each and every one of them for their continued support, hardwork and loyalty.

How many military personnel are there?
At the moment there are 200 military personnel and 150 civilians, but from next summer approximately 90,000 personnel, cadets and troops, could be coming through RAF St Mawgan per year.

What does your role as Station Commander of RAF St Mawgan involve?
I suppose you could say I'm the pinnacle of the pyramid. My role is to lead, motivate and direct all efforts towards supporting frontline operations, whether it's running messes, supply and logistics or training for deployment. I am very proud to take command of a RAF Base, but particularly so, as a Cornishman, to take a command in Cornwall.

What made you return to Cornwall?
I have three boys, and was keen to bring my family back to Cornwall – I find Cornwall inspiring, magical and unbeatable from anywhere I have visited around the world. We were having a holiday here when I heard that RAF St Mawgan was drawing down, and I thought why haven't I applied? So I did – and finally got the job!

I understand you have a degree in PE and are a keen rugger player – what role does sport have in your life?
A huge role. I've kept fit all my life and now I try and train every day. You need to be fit in mind and body for a military life - if you're deployed overseas, you need to be able to take responsibility for yourself and lead or support others around you.

If you hadn't joined the RAF, what would you like to have done?
Something sporting – perhaps adventure training, rugby coaching or become a lecturer in PE.

What's your favorite place in Cornwall?
I can't say that – everyone might go there and then it wouldn't be so special! All right then – I have several which depend on the time of year, the weather, my mood and so on. I like quiet places, so Holywell and Gwithian are two of my favourite beaches.

How do you relax?
I enjoy partying, cooking and physical activities of all sorts – and training on the beach.

Will you retire to Cornwall?
Oh yes – without a doubt!

Friday 14 August 2009

Family Times

I've just had several days with my youngest brother and his family – his wife and my niece and nephew, whom we don't see nearly enough of, owing to the fact that they live in Sussex.

Still, it reinforced to me how important family is. Meeting up with them and having time to talk and laugh, discuss and share views, was made all the better by some uncharacteristic sunshine which meant our time could be spent mostly on the beach.

Not having children ourselves, it's all the more important to keep track of theirs and hear what they've been up to, watch them grow from children, taking the first steps towards adulthood. Sometimes you see flashes of how they'll look as adults, notice eyes or noses that are their parents' characteristics, or the tilt of a chin that is just theirs.

One afternoon I was taken by my niece and nephew to a Maize Maze near here. It took 45 minutes to get out, but it was a great way of bonding, and as a result we all got a certificate and badge to say we are now official Pirates. I shall keep mine and smile at it, remember our family days with joy and squirrel them away for the rainy months of winter. When I think of our sunlit time together, I get a warm glow and family love surrounds me like a big hug.

I was talking to a friend who sadly rarely sees her sister and family. They live in London and the last time she saw her nephews was over a year ago. She was very upset, and over a glass of wine she said, “they're coming down to spend a week with some friends in Bude but say they're too busy to come and see us.” She took a gulp of wine and added, “I think it's something to do with my brother-in-law, though I don't know what I've done to upset them. My sister would never behave like that.”

I didn't know what to suggest, other than perhaps to ring her brother-in-law and talk to him. “I would but I'm afraid of making matters worse,” she said.

If you were in this situation, what would you do?

Monday 10 August 2009

Holiday memories

Well, we had a good break (though another week would have been ideal). The campsite at Padstow was a great find and we had good evidence the Rick Stein really has taken over the place. The queue for his takeaway fish and chips stretched round the block at all times of the day and most of the evening.

But the above is a picture of me and Molls reading in the van following a (mercifully short) shower. (I would like to state here that Himself did not drink all that Bass, nor did I drink the entire bottle of wine. Hic.)

The book in question was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and her niece, Annie Burrows. (When Mary Ann became too ill to do the necessary edits, she asked her niece, another writer, to do it for her.) I would wholeheartedly recommend this book, which I intend to read again in the near future – but the story of how it came to be written is one in its own right.

We have many memories of our trip - 10pm in the wash rooms at the campsite when they were inundated with everyone brushing their teeth. As a sign of the times, the room hummed with overzealous electric toothbrushes.

Port Isaac on a wet Monday morning – watching the fishermen bring in crates of fresh crab. A dismal mother crouched on a drizzly beach with her two children, trying to interest them in rock pools.

Driving over Dartmoor in teeming rain. (You get a recurring theme here?) Dartmoor to me is one of the most special places ever, and bad weather only makes it more atmospheric.

Walking along the edge of the river Dart one morning, when a cormorant skimmed the surface, heading purposefully upstream.

A boat trip down to Dartmouth, and seeing clouds of steam rising from the dense woods on our left – a steam train wending its way through the woods and over a viaduct.

And lastly, coming home to Falmouth carnival and seeing our friends all cavorting round a wooden whale. Lucky for us – and them – the sun came out.

And now it's Monday and back to work. The morning started with a wet dog walk and having to weigh the cat. Ever tried to do that on a pair of kitchen scales?