Wednesday 27 April 2011

Easter Bunnies

I often think Molls looks rather like a cross between a rabbit and a sheep when she's in full flow - this is her on Maenporth beach a few weeks ago.

For someone who can’t eat chocolate, Easter is very much a non-event though this has never bothered me. So I was amazed to find myself the recipient of several unexpected gifts:

Joe painted the garage for me and is now painting the door as well, dear of him.
Richard turned up with several books with historical background for my latest walk;
Mel gave me a bunch of bluebells from her Dad's farm;
Andrea gave me two of the most beautiful geraniums I’ve ever seen with frilly leaves and stunning, dark pink flowers. Definitely the Prince Charming of geraniums;
Viv gave me several aquilegia – their purple and pink nodding heads smile at me every time I walk up the steps;
And Paul promised me a chicken from his farm.

The weather has been fabulous which always helps - I sold Pip's BlackBerry on Easter Monday which wasn't easy, but having good friends with me helped a lot. We then went for a walk around the Lanhydrock estate which turned into one of those How Many People Does It Take To Read A Map walks. Despite (very bad) written directions and Richard reading the map, on which I had highlighted the route – which looked very simple on paper – we spent an inordinate amount of time getting lost and asking other people.

It didn’t help that my camera battery was flat so I couldn’t take a single picture, when the bluebell woods were stunning, but everywhere was so beautiful that it’s stored on the hard drive in my head. At one point I was telling Richard about someone Viv and I had worked with. Evidently my storytelling skills are sublime, for the next minute his lunch box shot out of his hand and tumbled down the riverbank. Luckily he rescued it before it sailed downriver, but by this time we were all laughing so much none was capable of doing much.

We arrived back several hours later, with Lanhydrock house basking in the sunshine, and outside the Yew tree topiary stood proud like a chess set out of Alice in Wonderland.

It was a day I will never forget. For all the right reasons.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

A Close Shave

This is Restormel Castle, where Viv, Titch, Molls and I went for a wonderful walk on Sunday.

On Monday I got back around 6pm to find an answerphone message asking me to call the automated department of the Santander Fraud Prevention Scheme.

It’s a scam, I thought. Surely if it was real, they wouldn’t ask me to ring an automated service? But I rang one of my brothers, who’s into this sort of thing. He said, “Shall I ring it for you and find out?”

So he did and reported back that they weren’t asking for any bank account details. So I rang. Pressed the 1 of this and 2 for that to answer security questions. And then I was asked if I’d made a payment of nearly £2,000 to a stranger. Press 1 if you have, Press 2 if you haven’t and need to talk to an advisor.

I pressed 2 quicker than you can bet, and talked to someone who said they would freeze my online banking and make sure the money was back in my account within 48 hours. Could I run a virus scan on my computer and ring them back?

I did that, but talked to Niki, my brilliant computer man who snorted. “No point in running a scan on your computer,” he said (with a Russian accent). “You ‘ave no virus on your computer.” There was an intake of breath as he inhaled his ciggie. “These people are stupid,” he continued. “Nowadays they get caught straight away. Ees waste of time.”

Somewhat mollified, if not confused, I did run the scan, rang back the bank and held on. And on. Until an automated message said they would ring me back when an advisor was free. I went to bed.

Next morning, repeat of last paragraph, without going to bed. I put the phone down and at 10am got a phone call from the bank. No one had made notes on my account so the bloke didn’t know what had happened the day before. I told him about the virus scan, about bank account being blocked, and having rung but no one getting back to me.

“Oh, you need to ring another number,” he replied.

At this point, not having slept too well, I exploded. “My husband has died, I have already rung three times and I am not ringing any other numbers. YOU sort it out,” I cried.

There was an infinestimal pause and he said, “Of course, Mrs Jackson. Absolutely.”

At this point, for some reason, I burst into tears. Relief I think. “So I don’t need to do anything?”

“No, of course not. We’ll sort this out Mrs Jackson, and I do apologise.”

I don’t think he probably knew what he was apologising for by this time, but that didn’t matter – the problem was being sorted. And thank god Niki was right and the bank were alerted to this amount of money whistling out of my account in time. And, more to the point, will replace it.

So while that was a near miss, I’m very fortunate. Even better, my dear brother in law came round last night with a boot full of wood he’d chopped up for me. We spent half an hour unloading it and stacking it and then retired to the kitchen for a glass of wine or two.

You know me – give me wood and wine and I’m happy.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Time Travel and Walks book

This is Rosemullion Head, taken last week in the glorious sunshine....

Last weekend Molls and I went up to Devon see one of my older brothers and my nieces, who are both at university and a joy to be with – intelligent, thoughtful and attractive young women. We don't often meet so it was wonderful to spend time with them and hear about their views on life, what they're doing and wearing. We placed bets on the National (no, won nothing) and went out to the pub for a meal.

Unfortunately I had several sudden and totally unexpected waves of missing Pip that knocked me off my feet. (At home it's more manageable somehow as I don't have to worry about other people.) A resurgence several hours later erupted like a volcano – just after we'd finished eating in the pub – and I shot off into the dusk with poor Molls for a howl and a Long Walk. (It's not always advisable to let family witness what you're really going through, particularly younger members.)

Next morning, I checked myself over gingerly. I was scarred and scraped, bruised and battered but alive. My sense of myself bubbled up to the surface and I smiled at the warm spring sunshine. Outside I could hear the tap tap of a woodpecker, the whinnying of a horse. A dog barking.

Around me life was going on as normal. My family were happily dozing in different rooms, Molls snoring on my bed. All was well. I had been gone for how long? Weeks or months – days or minutes – seconds or a lifetime? It didn't matter. I was back.

And that's enough of the difficult stuff. I have two bits of good news: the first is that, having got Pip's new camera out and practising with it (see above) I'm loving it and have booked myself on a photography course starting in a few weeks time.

The other thing is that, having had several disappointments on the work front this week, I have signed a publishing contract with Sigma Press for a walks book. I'm delighted to be working with them, and look forward to its publication next year.

Sunday 3 April 2011

Unexpectedly Happy Days

I had the most amazing week – Regent Cottage is lovely with a wonderful secret garden, and going somewhere on our own (me and molls) with no former associations was just what I needed. I felt happy and secure there and fine on my own – in fact relished the time I had to myself.

I missed Pip, of course: we had been to Penzance on many occasions, but it felt fine to be there without him. Partly what made the week so good, I realised, was that I wasn't constantly worrying about him. Whether his cough was bad, was he OK on his own, should I hurry back to be with him. Did he want to go for a drink, had he got a video to watch, enough to read etc. Was he feeling down, was he too tired? What did I need to do? Going away made me realise how much of a strain the whole of the last year was - not just the last few months.

For once all I had to do was look after myself and that made life so much easier. Freer. I bumped into all sorts of people I knew – all to do with writing – including Peter, who's organising the Penzance Literary Festival which he's asked me to take part in again. I met another journalist who belongs to the same journo forum as me. I visited the wonderful Book Cafe in St Just and got talking to more writerly, book loving types who were fascinated to hear that I write walks.

Viv and Titch came and we did three wonderful and very long walks, getting lost along the way. At one point we met this red haired sprightly fellow who was also pounding the coastal footpath – we'd bumped into him the previous day but he seemed to have shed his girlfriend and gained two walking sticks.

“How come he's so sprightly?” said Viv as he whizzed up and down the granite strewn path.

“He doesn't have two dogs, three guide books, a map, a tape recorder and a camera,” I muttered. As Viv has just had a Significant Birthday, I didn't add that he was also 30 years younger.....

So the week was productive, exhausting and fun. Coming home was tricky, suddenly hit by an avalanche of emotions that crashed over me like the waves at Land's End. And since then I am beset by sudden plunges of grief that hurtle me down like a tombstoner. But that's bound to happen. I take a deep breath and swim underwater. Go with it, don't fight it. It passes and I reach dry land again.

When I went to pick up Bussie from the vets they said, “You can't have him back! We love him!”

Needless to say, His Lordship has been horribly spoilt but has become very affectionate and has taken to sleeping on the bed as well as Mollie. So there I am squashed somewhere in the middle: a Flowerpot Sandwich. I was wondering about getting a smaller bed now, but have decided it's just as well we have a King Size bed......