Wednesday 23 March 2011


(This is Himself, Not Entirely Sober, which befits the ending of this post.)

There is better news this week, I'm glad to say, after The Week From Hell.

Poor Bussie (large black and white moggie, sole male resident of Flowerpot House) had to have a second operation to stitch him up following a bad cat fight. He's been in the vet hospital for a week now but hope he can come home soon although Molls and I are away in a few days – my dear brother in law will be looking after Bussie though. I am trying not to think about The Bill which has reached £200 and add on that another week of vet hospital fees plus food and flea stuff etc......

But I have two bits of good news: I have got a commission to interview Bill Bryson in June. And I have just been to have a meeting about a possible project with Cornwall & Devon Media.

The third thing is that Molls and I are going on holiday on Saturday. While I know I need the break, I am a little apprehensive about how I will manage. Here, at home, Pip is all around me. Where will he be in Penzance?

But I have deliberately chosen a cottage we've never been to before and it sounds ideal. It has a garden, parking for two cars and is close to the sea front. Near the pub where we went last time we stayed there. It is round the corner from a friend of mine and from our dear cousins.

So I have a support network in Penzance which is good to know, and a very good friend is coming to stay, as is my mum for a few nights.

And I do have this very strong feeling that Pip is with me. It's nothing as clear cut as walking along beside me, but he is around – on the outskirts of my emotionally peripheral vision. I can neither see him nor touch him but he is definitely there. A friend who came to stay the other weekend commented on it, unprovoked, so it's not just me.

Life is full of Firsts right now - the first time I do things without him. Now it's going on holiday. Bill Bryson. First trip to London in years.

So Molls and I will go to Penzance and Pip will come with us. He will even come walking, which he would never do normally. But I think I will take a photo of him with me just in case.

A few (good) things are happening, and as Helen Keller said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens: but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.”

I can hear Pip rejoicing at my good news. “Come on Flowerpot,” he will say opening a bottle. “Push the boat out!”

Thursday 17 March 2011

This rollercoaster called Life

Three months on – how have I managed that long without him? Though in fact it's six months since Pip was here and we had what passed for a 'normal' life.

But life goes on. I get good days and bad days. Tears are never far from the surface. On good days they recede, like a low spring tide. As I write, they spring to my eyes like leaks and dribble down my cheeks – just as well I don't often wear make up. And yet people say I'm brave, have courage. What does that mean? All I do is get up every morning, though sometimes that is a feat in itself.

Just when I think I am used to him not being here, I get a bad run of Life which makes me acutely aware of my vulnerability – on these days I feel as if I have shed several vital layers of skin. I am aware that I see the world differently. I feel it in another way, but I'm bound to.

This week has been One of Those Weeks. A promised commission from a glossy mag fell through – the editor changed her mind. My youngest brother sent a picture of me and Pip outside a pub in the sunshine last year looking so happy – so unaware of the future. Then my computer got a virus and I couldn't find anyone to fix it for days. And now, just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, Bussie has come in with blood pouring off his haunches – a cat fight I suspect - so I am just about to take him to the emergency vet.

But I am also aware of the good things in life. A beautiful day with a pale promise of sun. The unexpected kindness and thoughtfulness of another new friend who makes me laugh and only lives round the corner. "Come in for a cuppa," cries Colin, and his huge beam can't help but make me smile and lifts my spirits. A commission – for work is normal and I badly need that.

My computer is now fixed by a lovely fellow who patiently stayed for hours running scans, told me what to do in future and charged me very little. I have sold Pip's boat to a lovely couple and I know Pip would approve. And always there is my Molls, who patters alongside me and sleeps, glued to my hip. (Right now she is dozing on the bed behind me after a long walk.) For that I am most thankful of all, for she provides me with the love that I need to get through each day.

Last weekend I was privileged to meet a very enterprising man who runs The Chicken Hotel. He has a maths degree, did Finance in the city, became a cabinet maker, got made redundant and retrained as a maths teacher, and now he combines that with his Chicken Hotel. His mind is just like Pip's – inventive, imaginative, flexible and a great sense of humour. Meeting him, and those lovely chickens, was a real tonic. So you see? There's often something unexpected round the corner.....

And just when I had another of Those Days – my dear brother in law rang to say he'd chopped up six bags of the wood I'd collected. Some women like chocolate. Some like bags, some shoes.

Give me some wood for the fire and I'm a happy bunny.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Debs has kindly nominated me for this award, and in return I have to tell you 7 things about me. Well the ones that are printable are minimal so after a lot of thought, here they are, in no particular order.

1. Despite years of depression when I was younger, I am by nature a fairly cheerful person.

2. I have Raynaud's disease so when I'm cold my fingers and toes turn an attractive purple colour. When they get chilblains, they swell up and look like undercooked sausages. So attractive, though they're not as bad as they used to be when I smoked.

3. It was my birthday last week and despite the circumstances, I had one of the best birthdays for a long time. Sunshine and friends did a fabulous job. The downside was that I had my first hangover in I can't remember how long...

4. This flat has a name plate outside saying Flowerpot House.

5. I envy those who believe in an after life. It sounds such a comforting idea. But given what I've seen of life so far, I think that's far too simple. However, I do believe that those you love never leave you.

6. I am hopeless at exams. I have avoided them ever since school.

7. I have few regrets – I don't think they help in life. But I do wish when I was younger, that someone had said, “You must sing. Write. Dance.” That would have saved a lot of years of angst. Still, on the bright side, I can appreciate it all the more now.

And as you are such a discerning lot, the first seven people to make comments are entitled to this award. Go for it!

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Who am I?

Last weekend was supposed to be a relaxing one – taking the train up to Devon to see my mum for the first time in six months. So my dear brother in law, Pete, dropped me off at the station on Friday afternoon and offered to see me off. “Don't worry, Pete,” I said, giving him a hug. “We'll be fine.” And Molls and I set off to check the train and get a ticket.

It wasn't until I was standing in the queue for tickets that I thought – where's my bag? My stomach plummeted and I checked – got Molls, got my holdall and my wellies – but no bag.

I shot out of the ticket hall, ran outside, heart thumping, to see if Pete had gone. The February drizzle dowsed the afternoon but there was no sign of Pete's grey Fiesta. I walked back with a sense of utter disbelief. I stood there shaking, and realised I had no money, no phone and no keys. Nothing. No form of identification (though this didn't hit me until later). It was too far to walk home (12 miles) and I had no wherewithal to get a train or bus back.

But I have great faith in Pete, was convinced he'd see my bag lying on the back seat of his car. He'd swear, under his breath, and turn round and bring it straight back. So I thought. I knew I'd be OK – I just wasn't sure how.

As it happened, Pete didn't notice my bag until 8pm that night – this was 2.30pm. But after various phone calls from borrowed mobiles, a dear friend roared down to the station, paid for my ticket and gave me some cash for a cup of tea, and Molls and I got the 3.30 train. Dear Nancy also rang my mum to tell her what had happened and that I'd be on a different train, and left a message on Pete's answerphone.

Once on the train, I relaxed – though I could hear Pip saying, “have a brandy Pop.” If there had been any form of refreshment, I would have grabbed it, but typically there was nothing – not even one of those little trolleys. However, someone had left a half empty can of fizzy orange so I downed that.

In the middle of that night I awoke feeling very unsettled. The next day the feeling of dislocation continued and I realised that losing your identity is a very scary thing. I was no-one and nothing.

Although I don't use my mobile much, it has a lot of numbers that I can ring if I need to. Without it, I had no recourse to many of my friends. My diary is full of reminders and work dates. Without that I'd be lost. My keys were in my bag too – so I couldn't even get into the flat even if I did get home. I had a bottle of water for me and Molls, biscuits for my low blood sugar (which was also plummeting) – also in my bag. I have my trusty notebook and pen for when I think of things that I have to remember – which is about every five minutes. Lastly, I have an envelope where Pip wrote, “I love you,” which is my talisman.

One thing's for sure – I will never, ever, leave my bag in the back of someone's car again.

But I was fortunate that I hadn't actually lost the bag, and that I had friends and my mum to lend me money. I was struck by the kindness of many people – one lady in particular who let me use her phone for countless calls. I will not forget her, and if ever there's a time when I can repay her kindness, I will do so.