Wednesday 26 May 2010

Fisherman's Friends

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to meet the Fisherman's Friends, noted for their new album of sea shanties which is the first folk CD ever to make the Top Ten. Being a singer myself, I was keen to see them in person, and on a beautiful evening Himself and I drove up to Port Isaac, through sun dappled lanes, under Wedgewood blue skies: North Cornwall couldn't have looked better.

When I attended the launch and signing of their CD in Truro with my sister in law, we discovered that one of them was wearing a brooch made of Cornish tin. I lent over and said, “My husband designed that – and made it.”
“That's my brother!” added Shelagh.

Two weeks later, Himself and I turned up on Port Isaac quay and were met by two of the Johns (several of them are called John but I won't list their names here as it gets too confusing). Himself handed over a bag of Cardinham Cross brooches – one for each of them - that he'd made back in the days when they ran the Cornish tin jewellery business (all made from tin from the last working tin mine in Cornwall, South Crofty).

The Johns looked astonished. “Thanks, Mr Sue,” they said, and insisted on buying us a pint in the nearby pub.

The next hour was fascinating (“You'll treat us gently, won't you, Sue?”). I've never interviewed 6 people at a time (not an easy thing to do), but it was clear from their quick banter how close these men are, and what fun they have together.

What became clear is that it's not just the quality of their catchy singing that has caught the imagination of the public (though their singing is fabulous). It's also that these 10 men, ranging in age from 50-76, have been friends since they met at Port Isaac primary school.

In an age where celebrities tend to be young, self centred and obsessed with fame and fortune, it was particularly refreshing to meet these men whose lives aren't ruled by money: they are all self employed, and appreciate the beautiful place they live in. They are also proud to live in a small community where friends and family are all important. They have a sense of proportion about life.

So here's three cheers for the Fisherman's Friends, whose single No Hopers, Jokers and Rogues, is out on May 31st.

They sing most Fridays at Port Isaac at 8pm (check website for details of other gigs) and if you get to see them, have a look on their smocks – if you catch a glimpse of silver, it's a Cardinham Cross tin brooch.

Cornish good luck for very special Cornish boys.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

The Resident Thug

(Margaret Millar has rightly said that Bussie doesn't look much like a thug here. I would point out that he's in disguise. See end of post.)

Yesterday I was talking to my editor about cats. We were comparing notes on how our respective felines wake us up. Hers, being female, is of course much better behaved than Buster, who jumps on my pillow, stanks over to Himself and prods him until he wakes up. “He sounds rather a bully,” she said.

Actually, he's a thug. I love him dearly (sometimes more than others), but that love is tried and tested every morning at around 6am. And recently, because we dared to go and see my mum for a night, he decided to take revenge and wake us up at 5am for his breakfast.

Being a light sleeper, I always hear those feather light footsteps – or paws – as they creep into the bedroom at dawn. Then Buster jumps onto my pillow, while Mollie squeaks and jumps onto the floor. Buster prowls over the bed, nudging both of us, then returns to my pillow. I ignore him. Or pretend to, but I'm wide awake by this time.

The above exercise can tends to be repeated over and over, with Bussie using the bed as a trampoline and Molls almost wetting herself with sibling rivalry. Until eventually, one of us gives in and gets up. They are fed and we all go back to sleep again – if we're lucky.

One memorable time we'd been away for a few days and were loading our belongings onto the pavement. Bussie deigned to come and say hello, then proceeded to piss on everything. I was most angry because he was pissing on my library book, a very fat biography of Margot Fonteyn.

“What are you doing?” I shrieked like a madwoman. “Margot Fonteyn was the most famous ballerina in the world. How dare you piss on her?”

He looked at me with narrowed eyes and aimed another stream of urine at my feet. At that I decided to get our stuff inside before he could ruin anything else.

Bussie would be a very good terrorist, I've decided. (What do I mean, would be? He is.) He is very good at focusing on the job in hand, has no loyalty, isn't afraid of anyone and has NO sense of humour.

Anyone want a cat?

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Itching and Sister In Law

Having written that blog title, I hasten to add that the itching has nothing to do with my sister-in-law, nor myself. But it's coming up to that time of year again. Itching time.

Apart from Mollie's allergy to fleas (a very common problem and one that the cat is responsible for), she's had another itching problem, but all non-dog owners, I suggest you look away now. This is not for the squeamish.

The second problem was anal glands. You know when dogs sniff each other's bums? This isn't anything disgusting: it's just how dogs identify each other – like us shaking hands or saying hello. These glands are also known as scent glands and they help dogs mark their territory.

Most dog owners will know about problems with these and I won't go into details here for fear of offending those of a delicate nature – or nose in this case. Suffice it to say that our first vet wasn't overly helpful, so I asked all my other dog owning friends for advice, scoured the internet and went cross-eyed with conflicting information.

The problem with the glands seemed to clear up relatively easily courtesy of changing her diet. I was advised to use a hypoallergenic diet and was recommended James Wellbeloved. (Widely available or from Nutrecare.) Within weeks her problem had sorted out, though this was also due to the fact that she was not allowed any treats (Himself sulked over this) and had to adhere to a strict diet of biscuits only. Still, it did the trick and now she is happy and problem free in that area.

So if your dog has a problem in that department, talk to your vet and perhaps try a hypoallergenic diet. It worked for Molls, it could work for you! Er, I mean, your dog of course...

And on another tack, just off to take my sister in law (over from Vermont) to Penzance. Rain is forecast, of course, but it's a joy having time with her. Come again soon, Shelagh!

(Pic of Mollie taken by Claire Wilson)

Friday 7 May 2010

So long, farewell

This post is dedicated to a very dear friend of ours who died a few weeks ago. He was nearly 90 and had had, as they say, a colourful life, but was one of life's true charmers in the best possible way. He had wonderful manners, a quietly courteous air and a wonderful sense of humour. A real gentleman.

For the last few years of his life he was in a residential home and we would take him out most weeks for coffee. He had a passion for chocolate and would devour coffee and a chocolate muffin or brownie and then we'd take him shopping – for more chocolate. About £20 worth of those big family bars would last him a fortnight.

He was one of life's special people but sadly had very few visitors. We last saw him in hospital and knew that he didn't have long to live so that last visit was a very sad one, and our real goodbye. Which was just as well as, while a friend told us of his death, no one informed us of the funeral or the wake.

In fact one afternoon last week my sister and law and I were walking Molls and decided to go into a nearby cafe/bar for a cuppa. Mollie nosed open the door, we burst in and I was aware of a lot of people there. Thought it must be a wedding reception. But it dawned on me they were all wearing black. I saw one person who I recognised and thought – out of here!

So we retreated. Fast. Laughing at the incredulity of it all. (Wondering what all those people were doing at his funeral when they couldn't be bothered to see him when he was alive.)

And that night we had our own goodbye to a very special friend.