Tuesday 26 July 2011

Love, Port Eliot and Penzance Literary Festival

I am in love. You know - that heart racing, toe tapping sensation that lifts you several inches off the ground. Sharpens all your senses. Leaves a beatific smile on your face and gives you a warm, Ready Brek glow that touches everyone you pass.

But before you get excited, this is due to no man. This is because of the Port Eliot festival which I went to for the first time on Sunday. As it’s fairly laid back, I thought I’d enjoy it but was unprepared for the sheer depth and scope of the place. The setting is wonderful to start off with – a hidden estate nestled next door to the mystical-sounding Menheniot, yet not far from blustering, sprawling Plymouth.

We arrived by train and followed others to a doorway in an old stone wall. Port Eliot Estate, it read, and we entered a world of magic. There was so much to see – first in the Walled Garden, then we stumbled through a fairytale garden with whirls of colour and books. The scent of cooking wafted towards us tingling our taste buds. Next door clothes of all kinds were displayed in rows of jangling colour, next door to secret stalls of jewellery, and short wellies called Spats. A Flower Garden; a maze, a Hulaboloo play area for kids. Around every corner was a different exploration that roused and bombarded, soothed and seduced the senses.

Further on we found a path through elegant beech trees winding down to the river, watched those jumping in, cavorting with glee on the mud banks. Emerging shivering, wrapped in towels, by a stall selling Bellinis. The house itself was straight from a fairy tale – quiet, turreted splendour with towers for Rapunzel. A Round Room with amazing murals by Lenkiewicz. And who knows what else? I ran out of time to explore.

“I had Kate Winslet for breakfast,” said Phil longingly – for Kate read from the book Mr Gum to a rapt audience (of mostly men, for she was wearing black shorts, revealing muscular thighs, and shiny, pristine Hunter boots). Even Jilly’s rapacious mosquito bites didn’t deter her enthusiasm as we sat in the sunshine with a well earned beer.

From a bench we watched as a horse drawn cart conveyed luggage to and from the campsites, gypsy caravans snuggled next to a horse box where you could discover a New You, and we sampled a selection of eateries on the lawn by the stunning house offering everything from Pimms, ice cream and falafels to pork baps, haloumi sarnies and Thai curries.

Us music lovers were drawn to the Big Top where we listened to all kinds of bands under hot lights that rotated green, blue and pink, while the music pounded against my breastbone like hot adrenaline, making even my cup shake.

I emerged pixillated and speechless, longing to share my experiences with those friends that would have loved it but couldn’t make it. But how? I sat on the train scribbling, texting, but mere words couldn’t convey my experience of this amazing day.

Now I need another music fix – fast – and unfortunately our choir is having a summer break. Then I remember it’s our lovely musical director’s birthday this Saturday, so we are all meeting for tea, cakes and a Big Sing. So think of us with crumbs on our laps and music in our heads, singing our hearts out for Claire.

And back to matters literary - if anyone is in Penzance this Thursday 28th, Fi Read and I are giving our talk for the Penzance Literary Festival at 2pm at the Acorn Theatre. Come and give us some moral support!

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Holidays and Absent Men

This is me and Molls on a wonderful walk round Noss Mayo last week. My holiday was all too short – 4 days not nearly long enough to recharge my batteries – but wonderful and the drive to Devon went well. Dear Pip was very protective of me and as I don’t enjoy driving, he would do it for me. Now I decided it was time I did it myself, sang most of the way, even enjoyed part of it and have a sense of achievement. A friend had checked the van over for me before I went which also gave me confidence, so that’s another box ticked.

I had a great few days walking and nattering with my dear friend Av. We also hit the charity shops and for those of you interested in Acquisitions, I found a pair of denim cut offs (Per Una) that could have been made for me, plus t shirt at combined price of £5.50 so I was well chuffed with those.

My contact lenses also got the thumbs up from both Av and my mum – “I can see your eyes again,” said my mum in bewilderment. “You look amazing.” Though I think that was more down to the fact that my face is brown and I was wearing a bright pink t shirt…

Poor Mum hasn’t been having a good time of things recently but I think we cheered her up a bit, took her to the pub for supper and had a meal with my good mates John and Annie another night, all of which meant I had fish pie three nights running but who cares? I didn’t have to cook which was a great bonus.

The only down side was coming home to an empty flat. Bussie (the remaining male resident of Flowerpot House) was absent. Now this is a bloke who likes his food. Who wakes me at 5 every morning yowling and demanding his breakfast. I called and called. I searched the neighbouring streets. Asked the neighbours. Rang local radio station. Still no Bussie. Several years ago he disappeared when he was injured in a cat fight so I figured he’d either been in (yet another) fight or been shut in somewhere. Like most of the men in my life, he’s frequently in trouble.

On Sunday night I came back and there sitting in the hall was – “Bussie!” I cried. He was very thin and found it difficult to walk. His back legs were creaky and he was filthy. He could hardly eat but since then has been eating and is more mobile but I’m keeping a close eye on him for the next day or two. A trip to the vet might be on the cards (though given the last bill I’m hoping to avoid that).

Tonight I’m off to the Poly in Falmouth for a friend’s private view and on Sunday I’m going to Port Eliot festival, so next week I will fill you in on that – oh and tell you about my unexpected meeting on Dartmoor with a pilot. Sometimes you never know who you’re going to meet, where….

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Holiday Time

As of next Monday I am taking a holiday. One that is overdue by a month, so it will be very welcome. Molls and I are off to Devon to meet my dear friend Av and go walking on Dartmoor and in the South Hams. (Cue here for torrential downpours over the next week.)

We will be staying with my mum who’s not had the best of health recently so we can take her out and about a bit as well which will be lovely. Av is reeling with shock as over the past few months I have started to take an interest in my appearance. After 15 years of living with darling Pip who said “I think you look wonderful whatever you wear,” I have realised that frequently I don’t so it’s fun taking an interest in clothes again – in a limited way.

A friend, having seen our wedding pictures, asked why I wore glasses when I used to wear contact lenses. “Those glasses suit you, but you don’t make the most of your looks,” he said. I was furious but it made me think. I asked mum what she thought about me going back to contact lenses. “Oh definitely,” she said.

I sat and thought. And as I needed an eye test anyway, went along. I now have soft lenses and I hate to say it, but I feel very different. They do suit me.

In amongst our stomping over Dartmoor, I have asked Av to come shopping with me. It will be charity shops or somewhere cheap but she has excellent taste in what suits whom, and I’m really looking forward to our Spree.

Pip has settled into a good space. He is nearby when I need him but comes everywhere with me, which I think is as it should be. I miss him – of course I do – but I have had to adapt – fast – to life without him. I am becoming a different person and life is full of Firsts. Driving up to Devon by myself will be another first, but I know I will feel a huge sense of achievement having done it.

I am also learning how to deal with the many practical problems that arise and am extremely fortunate in having three very trusty and protective men I can call upon for help. Given the circumstances, I think I am very lucky.

See you all in a couple of weeks.