Wednesday 26 January 2011

Versatile Blogger

Many thanks to Debs Carr for this - now I have to list 7 things about myself and pass it on to 7 other people. As I have a deadline to hit, I will pass this on to the first 7 people to comment. A cop out but a necessary one I feel.

So - here are 7 things.

1. My real name is not the one I am called.

2. Both Pip and I have had a succession of nicknames in the past. Mine have included Rabbit, Kit Kat, Sex Kitten (don't ask) and of course Flowerpot and Pop.

3. I never knew I was a dog person until Molls came along. (Don't tell Bussie - I'm a cat person too.)

4. I don't think regrets are a good thing in life, but I do wish we'd had I'd started writing professionally earlier.

5. I also wish I'd discovered singing earlier, for these two things keep me sane at the moment.

6. I have recently acquired friends from all over - Sweden, Norway, Denmark, France, New Zealand and Australia. What does this say about me?

7. In my bag, in a plastic cover, is a torn envelope. The day before he died, Pip wrote, "I love you."

Wednesday 19 January 2011

A Romantic Walk

(The Pandora Inn, now famous as being Our Pub While Courting.)

This is the walk that is in the current copy (January) of Cornwall Today - quite by chance as I should have written another one. But this is all about my Pip so I was able to take it in on Christmas Day and show the nurses. Boy was he proud....

A ROMANTIC WALK from Mylor Quay along the creek to the Pandora Inn,
returning via Mylor Bridge

I met my husband, Pip, when he was living on an oyster fishing boat called White Heather, moored near the Pandora, so this thatched pub at Restronguet was our local – a very romantic place to do our courting.

To start the walk, take the A39 Falmouth-Penryn road and at Penryn, take the road signposted to Mylor and continue until you reach Mylor Bridge. At the first roundabout go straight over, then take the first sharp turning on the right, and drive down past the post office to park on Mylor Quay.

It was low tide when I did this walk with John and Annie, and bath time for a party of ducks, splashing and squawking as they dived into pools of water like over-excited children. As we walked along the road following public footpath signs to Greatwood and Restronguet, several swans glided past, looking down their noses at the riff-raff. Just past a circular mirror on the right, we took a footpath parallel to the creek and, being a boating man, John was fascinated by the selection of boats at Tregatreath boatyard opposite.

The path curved round to the left, by a concrete block wall, then we crossed a private road and took the footpath sign ahead on our right, through a squeaky gate which led to a large field. There are often cattle here – and bulls have been known – but thankfully there were none today and we crossed the field, weaved our way through a kind of metal kissing gate and found ourselves on the foreshore.

We turned sharp left along the path that follows the creek; this next bit can be extremely muddy and slippery. On the opposite side of the creek I pointed out the houses along Church Road – a selection of houses in varying shapes and sizes of grandeur. We walked past a ploughed field on our left, full of rich brown earth like chocolate fudge, and noted the very last of the blackberries, and branches coated in feathery fingers of lichen. “Is that pronounced liken or lichen?” I asked.
John and Annie voted for lichen, and whichever it is, it is supposedly a sign of pure air so we breathed that much deeper as we walked.

Passing through another kissing gate, a winding path led us down to an overgrown quarry and on the shore, a couple of tired old boats, lapping up the sun in their last resting place. The path continued round to the right and another five barred gate into another field, then through that, to another little inlet with yet more decaying boats and a carefully positioned swing hanging from a tree over the beach. Being a painter, Annie was cursing herself for not having brought her sketch book, but as the sun made an appearance, took photographs so she can paint them later.

Passing through another wooden kissing gate and a muddy quagmire, we crunched our way through autumn gold leaves and up into another field, following a path diagonally uphill past a massive oak tree with branches trailing like a dowager's dress, through which the creek sparkled like diamonds.

At the top of this hill was a dead tree, branches grasping their way skywards. The path now tumbled down the other side of the hill and as we looked out to sea, saw moorings, in lurid shades of pink and green, like gobstoppers perched on the foreshore. Passing through another wooden kissing gate, we continued along a path strewn with acorns until we reached Greatwood Quay, where we stood looking out at the waters of Carrick Roads, the Roseland Peninsula, and Mylor Harbour, where there used to be a naval dockyard. The remaining boats of the season were bobbing on the waves and the nearest of these belonged to BATS – Blind At Sea – who often sail on these waters.

Greatwood Quay is a listed building built in the 18th century, of vertically-set dry slatestone with dressed granite copings linked by iron staples. This beautifully built quay was a landing stage for Greatwood House, further along this path.

As we continued along the path, we counted five oyster fishing boats out in the Carrick Roads: because oysters breed in the summer, fishing is restricted to October until April only. The Cornish have dredged for oysters in this area of the river Fal for over a century, and some of the boats, built at local boatyards, date back as far as 1860. Ancient laws were put in place to protect the natural ecology of the riverbeds and oyster stocks, stating that oystermen fishing in the Port of Truro Oyster Fishery are banned from using engines. Only sail power and hand-pulled dredges are permitted, although boats are allowed to motor out to the oyster beds. This is the only oyster fishery in Europe, if not the world, where such traditional methods must be used, and watching a fisherman at work is a real art.

Pip has owned several of these splendid wooden boats (known as “working boats” locally), one of which we did our courting on. The year before we met, his brother took over their business to enable him to have a season oystering, fulfilling a lifelong ambition. “It was incredibly hard work,” he said. “I lost over 3 stone, but I learnt so much from the oyster fishermen, and I was lucky to have such an incredible experience.”

We continued along the path, uphill through the woods, and turned right, from where we could see Greatwood House, once a vast turreted mansion but now converted to flats with fabulous views out over the Carrick Roads. Further on was a row of small cottages, and the path continued past some old stables under renovation. There used to be several Shetland ponies that grazed here: it always amazed me that they could graze at such an angle.

Further on Gunnera leaves towered over us, like huge plants from a nightmare, but we crept past, my imagination working overtime, and continued until we reached Weir Beach, where Mollie loves chasing the swans. Until they hiss back. There is often a solitary heron here, and a black swan that became quite famous. Today we spotted a lone egret, curlews and a cormorant, perched on a buoy, drying his wings.

Leaving Weir Beach behind, we continued along the path until we reached the Pandora where Pip was waiting, drinks at the ready. After a brief interlude we climbed up Restronguet Hill, which is extremely steep and narrow. Towards the top where it flattened out, I pointed out a telegraph pole where, not long after we met, Pip stuck a notice there announcing, 'Pip loves Curls'.”
Gossip was rife among the local community, wondering who owned said curls.

We reached a crossroads shortly after this and headed down the hill, through Mylor Bridge. Being ravenous by the time we reached the foot of the hill, we paid a visit to the butcher, then turned left and arrived back on the quay. The tide was coming in fast as we sat on a bench, eased off our boots, and tucked into excellent home made pasties.

John pointed out some swans gliding serenely past. “That was a lovely walk - I really enjoyed seeing your old stamping ground.” He paused and looked at me. “Though I do think you should put a blue plaque on that telegraph pole.”

OS Explorer 105 Falmouth & Mevagissey
Length: 1.5 -2 hours
Duration: 3 miles
Grading: easy going, though can be very muddy. The hill up from the Pandora is very steep.
Refreshments: Pandora Inn 01326 3726768
Lemon Arms, Mylor Bridge 01326 373666
Various shops in Mylor Bridge

Wednesday 12 January 2011

The next step

On Monday I went shopping. My list read, “Veg, echinacea, ashes.” And so I went to collect my Pip and bring him home, a task I found very comforting. En route, I met a friend and her dog to go for a walk and she looked at the green box on the passenger seat. “It's Pip,” I explained.

“Oh fine,”she said, unfazed. “Shall I have him on my lap?”

As he had always fancied her, I had to smile....

Many of you have asked for an account of Pip's memorial service and while I do not wish this to be a blog about bereavement, this is obviously what occupies a large part of my time at the moment. So bear with me for a moment.

Grief is, like death, a strange, private business and we all do it differently. I have Wet Days when I howl and rage and weep at the fact that he is gone. At how quickly it all happened – though of course those last 3 months didn't seem quick. Sometimes I can't even bear to think of him, or look at any pictures, for the gut churning pain is too raw, too intense.

And then I get Dry Days, where my energies are higher and when I walk Molls on the beach in the morning, he is there beside me and that is a huge comfort. I come home and instead of an empty flat, his presence is all around me and I talk to him, hear him call, “Flowerpot!”

But yesterday - his memorial service - felt very unreal. I felt as if I was in a play, waiting for Pip to walk in and comment on the jazz band, or sit and take my hand as he always did. The jazz band were wonderful and when Ruth got up to sing, her voice melted the sternest of hearts.

John the Fish, the humanist celebrant who knew Pip, Pete and me, read my words out and those of others, my friend Nik gave a lovely funny talk about Pip, and my older brother and his wife gulped through a tribute. We started and finished with Pip's favourite songs and the shared love in the room was amazing, the room packed so that people were standing outside.

Afterwards, in the pub, the band continued playing and the party continued. I talked to as many as I could, went home to get Mollie and have a breather, and returned to the pub later. Then my youngest brother and I went home for more talks, wine and some grub.

It was a day of laughter and tears, of shared memories and a sense of disbelief. Now it's another rainy January, I put Ben on the train first thing and then had to take poor Molls to the vet where she is now having some glass removed from her paw. I'm to pick her up this afternoon (she said, trying not to think about what might happen under the anaesthetic).

Several widows (I dislike that melodramatic word) have warned me that now the service is over, I will feel terrible. Well, I haven't been feeling wonderful so far, but I guess we all react differently and if I hit the skids, then I do. What will be will be.

I'm embarking on the next chapter of my life – and who knows what will happen? I intend to write my way out of this and if I can help others who are suffering as well, all the better. The last few months have shown me what an incredible bunch of friends I have and I will need them all, I know. (SO does Molls – I hadn't realised how much we would both miss male company.)

But as Pip wrote in his last card, “I will always love you, Flowerpot,” and I will try and hold on to that to give me strength in the coming months.

Thursday 6 January 2011


I don't intend to bang on about it, but I wanted to tell you about a series of very strange coincidences concerning my Pip's departure that seem to somehow fit together in a comforting jigsaw.

The first occurred when instead of the walk I was scheduled to write for Cornwall Today, I did another one nearer home. (With Pip being ill at home I had much less time.) The walk I wrote about was near the Pandora, and detailed how we met, where we did our courting. His exploits oystering. And how we fell in love. That was the one in print when he died – I'd taken it into hospital on Christmas Day and showed the nurses – boy was he proud.

The second coincidence was that one of the nurses on HDU had lived next door to us about 10 years ago. “I remember you!” she said, her eyes crinkling up in a smile. “Drinking red wine round your kitchen table!” The day before he died, we had a chat in the kitchen when I was looking for a plastic cup. I told her about Pip, how he wasn't expected to live long. It turned out she'd lost her 21 year old son to bowel cancer. He died 10 days after his wedding. “I can talk about it now,” she said, “but the most important thing to learn is to accept death. Don't try and pretend it hasn't happened.”

The third coincidence concerned Pip's love of jazz. He used to play the cornet in a jazz band and Louis Armstrong was his hero. Pip died at 3pm on Boxing Day, and at precisely that time, High Society was on TV. At the beginning of this legendary film, Louis Armstrong and other musicians are playing – so Louis played my Pip out of his life. How very fitting and how very delighted he would have been.

The fourth was that the editor of Cornwall Today, who is currently on maternity leave, sent me a message saying that her mother and partner were inspired by my walk and they all did it – guess when – on Boxing Day. “I thought of you and Pip as we walked,” she said.

The fifth was that the Registrar who registered his death has a relative who lives at the end of our street, whom she calls in to see every day. When she heard what I did, she asked what I wrote. I told her and said that I also write for Cornwall Today. “Really? She said. “My copy's just arrived this morning. There's a piece on a milliner called Holly.”
“I wrote that,” I said.
“Oh!” She laughed. “There's also a walk around Mylor I want to read – my husband drove the ferry there in the summer.”
“I wrote that walk too,” I said and pointed to the death certificate. “It's all about him.”

If you put that in a novel no one would believe you.