Thursday 29 October 2009

Money can't buy me Love

I woke last night and started thinking about things that troubled me.

One was my American friend who, having lived over here for 4 years, has applied for residency. This has involved various tests, submitting both her and her partners' passports, wage slips and countless other pieces of paper and also parting with nearly a thousand quid.

She'd hoped to fly home for Thanksgiving but when she rang the Immigration lot to ask when she might know if her application had been successful, she was told to wait FOURTEEN WEEKS before ringing again. That's nearly four months in which time a) she can't go home as they have her passport, b) she won't see her mother and sister and c) she's wondering whether any day she might be deported. If she is, where would she and her partner go? And what about their beloved animals? If they had to be quarantined, she would find that so so hard.

The other thing that was my youngest brother and his family, whom we saw yesterday (see above - them off to surf). They were staying in North Cornwall for half term but he was unable to take much time off as he has a big tender coming up on Tuesday and needs to prepare for that. So no holidays on holiday.

I love my brothers to bits, but they lead such stressful lives that I thank God we don't have to live like that. Not having children helps, and the fact that neither Himself or I have ever been materialistic or acquisitive.

I was talking to a friend the other night and we discussed the sentences over the Baby P case. One of the men has had his sentence reduced and could be out of prison in three years, and the other is appealing as well. While in other cases, people are getting indefinite sentences for fraud.

Deb and I wondered - since when has money become god, meaning more than lives?

Of course money is essential for bills, mortgages, university fees, accommodation, clothing - well, we all know what it goes on. And a bit more would certainly smooth our path. Money can provide choices: a better education for children; paying bills. Holidays and clothes; boats and houses.

But it certainly can't buy peace of mind. And when you get to a certain age - I'm talking over 50 here - there might come a time when it's possible - or necessary - to rethink life. (Of course if you're happy with it anyway, there's no need.)

I realise I am extremely fortunate: I work hard and have a job I love, even if the pay isn't wonderful. Himself has very little work, but we scrape by, and I am so glad we are able to live the way we do, where we have the time and space to appreciate life.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Stones Bakery

I go to this bakery in Falmouth a lot. Himself buys their organic flour to make bread, and they make the best flapjack ever: full of fruit, seeds and not too sweet. Think I'll have to go down there later.... read about them here and in November's Cornwall Today.


Stone's Bakery in Falmouth is one of several artisan bakers emerging in Cornwall to make delicious products using high quality ingredients. Having started off two years ago from an industrial unit in Penryn and a stall on Falmouth Moor they have taken over a shop in the High Street and are selling out with their delicious baguettes, focaccia and sourdoughs, as well as speciality breads including garlic and thyme, and a spelt and honey loaf. They also sell a wide range of cakes, croissants and cheese straws and are renowned for their flapjack. And to cater for all tastes, they even sell books!

Oliver Kingdon, 29 and his wife Rosie, 28, seem a quiet, industrious couple but their faces light up when they start talking about their food. “We get our organic flour from three places – every mill produces a slightly different type of flour that suits different types of bread,” Oliver explains. “Stoates & Son are a Dorset firm that provide good wholemeal spelt and rye flour.”

“We did look into getting Cornish flour but there wasn't anyone who sold it on a large enough scale,” adds Rosie. “So we get white flour from Shipton Mill, and self-raising and plain flour for cakes from Doves. We tried them all out to see what suits which bread, and we've tried to go with smaller independent mills - they're more knowledgeable and specialised.”

“Organic flour has less pesticides, as wheat is a crop that is heavily sprayed,” Oliver continues. “The flavour from stoneground is better and they blend different types of wheat which have different levels of protein.”

“We wanted the flour to be organic because it tastes better,” says Rosie. “We're not completely organic because we wanted to keep our prices down but the flour is. And in some areas you don't necessarily taste the difference. We wanted to make our products at a price everyone could afford.”

The shop is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9-4 but the hours are flexible. “There are always things to finish up at the back so if we're there we might as well sell things,” says Oliver. “We're happy for people to tap on the window!”

Oliver and Rosie Kingdon met at Hull university 9 years ago and have been together ever since. After leaving university, Oliver got a job at a small organic mill and bakery at Lincolnshire. “I'd always been interested in food, and I wanted to do something practical,” he explained. “I also did a Panary course which is like bakery school.”

“We liked the idea of being self employed and we both enjoy baking,” Rosie says. “It seemed something we could do on our own so we went from there.”

The couple moved to Cornwall two years ago. “We'd been here on holiday and wanted to live by the sea,” Rosie says. Initially they lived in St Ives, and named the bakery after the notorious Stones Reef off Godrevy Island. They found the industrial unit in Penryn, and set up the stall in Falmouth. “We liked Falmouth as a town,” says Oliver. “It's a year round town not just tourists, which is good for business.”

“We didn't want to take on a huge amount of risk so the stall allowed us to start off small and test the water,” explains Rosie. “If it hadn't worked, we would have done something else. In fact we built up a customer base but if it was really windy then the market would be cancelled and we couldn't trade that week. So we wanted something where we could be there 5 days a week, year round.”

This job is not for the fainthearted - Oliver starts baking between 3 and 5 in the morning, five days a week. “When we had the unit I slept in the day and never saw anyone,” he says. “I'm used to being covered in flour!” he adds with a grin. “But with the shop we get to know our customers and see more of each other.”

Rosie makes the cakes in the daytime in between serving customers. “There aren't many places where you can buy a cake which is just made out of the ingredients you'd have in the fridge,” she says. “If we have fat in the cake then it will be Trewithen butter, and eggs from Cornhill.”
“If there's chocolate then it's proper chocolate melted by us, not chocolate flavour,” adds Oliver. “We experiment a lot with the cakes but if they don't sell, we don't make them.”

The most popular items are baguettes, chocolate brownies and the longest cheese straws ever seen. “We use Trewithen butter in the croissants and cheese straws, and you can really taste the creamy flavour,” says Rosie. “They're made from a croissant base and we use Cornish cheese,” adds Oliver.

At the moment their favourite is a rye sourdough loaf. “We make it just for Saturday in an Eastern European style,” says Oliver. “It's a really moist, dark sticky loaf that looks like a little brick!”

They've found the other shop owners in the High Street very friendly. “Lots of them pop in to pick things up and the hairdresser is always recommending us to her customers!” says Rosie. “There's a strong sense of community along the High Street,” adds Oliver. “When we first started work on the building we got cards from some of the others saying welcome and lots popped in to say hi. It was really nice.”

This enterprising couple don't just sell their own baking and muesli. They also stock Kyfyth Kernow jams and chutneys, greetings cards by illustrator Beth Knowles, chopping boards and cutlery trays from Barncrest in Penryn who made the wooden shop counter. They even sell second hand books. “The books come from a friend who owns Beerwolf books on Falmouth market,” says Rosie. “They have a really good selection so we decided to stock them as well.”

Having their own business has been a steep learning curve but despite having proved such a success, they have no plans to change. “Some people expand too quickly and lose the quality of the product,” explains Oliver. “If we have an idea we can find out what people think of it immediately by having tasters on the counter.”

“We want to do something practical, not have to manage lots of people,” adds Rosie. “I enjoy serving the customers – if I make a tray of flapjack then a couple of hours later it's me that sells it – that's immediate satisfaction. Particularly when they come back and tell me how much they've enjoyed it!” She pauses. “The way the shop looks is just how we want it to look. It reflects us as individuals.”

Oliver and Rosie are conscious of needing a balance between work and their lives outside. “We've got to enjoy our work and our customers, but we also want to be able to enjoy the lovely place we live in,” says Rosie. And despite not wanting to expand, in one way they will, for Rosie is expecting a baby in December.

“I'll probably get more help in the shop and work part time at first,” says Rosie thoughtfully. “But we'll see what happens.” Oliver smiles at his wife and his eyes twinkle. “We'll just get the baby baking!” he says.

Stones Bakery
28a High Street
Falmouth TR11 2AD


Stones Bakery also attend St Ives Farmers Market on Thursdays

Friday 16 October 2009

It's Never Too Late

Last night we had a novel writing meeting, and one of those present was Nancy. My inspiration. She is in October's Cornwall Today.

After twenty years away, a 70 year old Cornish woman returned home
and embarked on her third career.

Nancy Kinnison has a lot in common with the late Mary Wesley, who once said, ‘Sixty should be the time to start something new, not put your feet up.’ Nancy agrees with this, having changed career – again – when she retired from teaching at 65. Her latest reincarnation is perhaps one of her hardest challenges. Becoming a writer.

‘I’ve always wanted to write,’ Nancy says in her breathless fashion. ‘I had a very encouraging teacher at school, then, when I was married, I started writing short stories. I always said that when I finish work I will write, and that’s what I've done.’

Nancy talks quickly, waving her hands as she speaks. She wears no makeup, and her jewellery is all silver; a pair of dangly earrings, a variety of chunky rings on each finger, and a pendant. She is short and stocky, with understated, comfortable clothes that struggle to contain her overflowing enthusiasm. Her eyes flash back and forth, missing nothing.

‘The worst bit about being a writer is the frustration of trying to put emotions into words that will evoke those feelings for a reader,’ she says.

Nancy moved back to Cornwall in 2004 because, “simply, it's home. But I'd lived in cities for 20 years and enjoy their facilities: that's why I chose to live in Truro. It's at the centre of Cornwall but only minutes away from the sea; the sound of breaking surf was a childhood lullaby.”

What did she miss about Cornwall? She laughs. “Everything! The people – their down to earth character and wicked sense of humour. The infinite variety of its landscape, and above all, the untameable and ever-changing sea.”

Nancy now lives in a small house on a quiet estate in Truro. Her living room is filled with novels, books on psychology, Cornish magazines and newspapers. A collection of fruit ripens on the window sills, next door to pots of basil and parsley, and above the television are a collection of photographs of her grown children and grandchildren. An ordinary house, you might think. But there is nothing ordinary about Nancy.

She was born and brought up in a small fishing village in Cornwall, and started pre-nursing training in 1950 aged 16 before doing her nursing training at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital.

When Nancy married a policeman in 1957 she worked as a staff nurse until she had children. When they were at school she returned to work, but not for long. ‘It was impossible to fit in with my husband’s shifts while the children were young,’ she says. ‘When they were older I did my Diploma in Nursing and worked at Treliske hospital as a night sister for two years.’

In 1976 Nancy’s marriage broke up. ‘My husband left when the children were 15 and 18,’ she says, the pain and anger still clear in her voice. As a result she left nursing and worked as a technician at Falmouth School. ‘It wasn’t the most fulfilling of jobs, but it was right at the time,’ she adds resolutely.

When Nancy was 45 she applied to Southampton University to read Sociology and Social Administration. ‘I’d always wanted to go to university but never thought I was bright enough.’ She smiles defiantly. ‘I was terrified. Most people considered going to university at my age ridiculous, but I thought I must try - and fail if necessary.’

So she’d never thought about going to university earlier? ‘Coming from a working class family, it wasn’t an option,’ she said. ‘But if I could change anything about my life I would have gone to university earlier. It was the first step to finding intellectual fulfilment.’

Nancy got her degree and secured a lecturing post at North London College teaching Sociology and Psychology. ‘I got a tremendous amount out of all my various jobs,’ she says, her eyes gleaming, ‘but teaching was the most rewarding. Having piloted a BTEC Nursery Nurse course, I applied for a job to set up a similar course in Bath. I stayed there till I retired in 1997.’

Most people would have some time off before starting on another career, but not Nancy. ‘The second Saturday after I retired, I went on a writing course and started writing,’ she says with her open laugh. ‘I wish I’d started earlier – someone told me it takes ten years to produce anything professional.’

But since then Nancy’s short stories have appeared in QWF (Quality Women’s Fiction), Woman’s Own, Fiction Feast, Yours and Family Circle, which has greatly increased her confidence.

‘I've joined various groups, attended a novel writing course and started writing my first novel,’ she says. The novel, the first of a trilogy, is set in the 1950s, about a young nursing student. ‘I wanted to show how different nursing was then compared to now,’ she explains.

The novel was interrupted when an ex-colleague asked her to collaborate on a psychology textbook for nurses. ‘If I’d have known how much time it was going to take, I probably wouldn’t have done it,’ she says. ‘But it’s in print now, so I've gone back to my novel which is such a relief!’

At 75, Nancy is aware that she has less time than some of us, but this doesn’t deter her. ‘I always knew that learning how to write would be a long slow process,’ she says. Her hard work was rewarded last year when a London literary agent asked to see the whole manuscript. 'She turned it down, but to have got that far is very encouraging,' Nancy says. And she is positive about the future. ‘In five years time I hope to be writing a bestseller - my third best selling novel!’

Nancy is an inspiration to anyone regardless of sex or age. So what advice does she have? ‘If you want to try something, do it,’ she says. ‘Get tuition, join groups – take whatever you're doing seriously.’ She looks up and smiles. ‘It’s all about having the courage to try. If there’s something you really want to do, go for it.’

Sunday 11 October 2009

The Jewel in the Crown

We're now back from holiday and there's nothing like going away on holiday to really appreciate Home.

Don't get me wrong - we had a great time. The cottage was lovely, and had a very good range cooker that Himself fell in love with, and made great use of (so we were all happy) and a back yard for Mollie so she was happy. My mum came for half the week, various friends dropped in, we had cousins for supper, and a very good pub within a few minutes walk. Perfick, as Pa Larkin would say.

The weather could have been better, but there was one day that really stood out for me. Our cousins had told me about a Bronze Age settlement called Carn Euny – from there you can walk over to Chapel Carn Brea, one of the highest spots in Cornwall. I did this walk on the one really good day we had where the sky was dark blue and I could see for miles.

Himself looked at the map and said “you just go up to Carn Euny and go left,” as if I was in the middle of a town.

I grunted, he said he'd meet me at Chapel car park, and we both departed in opposite directions, Mollie scampering behind me. Well, suffice it to say that as I'd figured, it wasn't as simple as Just Turning Left. I found Carn Euny and that was an incredible sight – but from then on it got tricky. I looked at the map but the green lines indicating Public Footpath didn't bear any resemblance to the paths in front of me. So I retraced my steps and started again.

Then I found another map which seemed to indicate I was going in roughly the right direction, so I continued. After I'd been walking for about 40 minutes (Himself had reckoned the entire walk would be 30 mins), my phone rang. “Where are you?” he said in his I'm-not-worried-just-enquiring-voice.

“I've no idea,” I said. “I figure if I don't find you I'll retrace my steps.”

Silence. “Where's the sun?”

“On my left.”

Another pause. “You should be walking into it, Pop.”

We left it that I'd continue for another ten minutes and if I was still lost then, I'd go back.

But then I came to the top of the hill and the path curved into the sun. I took a deep breath and there was Cornwall laid out before me in all her glory. Scilly glimmered in the distance, Long Ships lighthouse stood proudly in the sea before me, a small airplane took off from Lands End runway, and I took a deep breath, breathing in that exhilarating air, and realised how lucky I was to be there, at that time, with the wind whipping my hair, the sun beating down on me – and Mollie wondering if I was whooping because I'd really flipped.

Looking round, there was such a dizzying sense of height and depth and space. And here, in an area that hasn't been overly farmed, and apart from the monstrosity that is Lands End, hasn't been mucked around by tourism, it's possible to see a glimpse of the real, rough Cornwall. The land as it was in the Bronze Age. An earthy, raw feeling that is simply very, very ancient and basic and simple.

And that glimpse – that for me was the real jewel in my holiday crown.