Wednesday 28 September 2011

Another One Bites the Dust

Last weekend couldn’t have provided more contrast – a great gig on Saturday night followed by scattering more of Pip’s ashes on the Sunday. But let me start with Pip first of all.

I was determined to scatter the second lot of Pip’s ashes at Polly Joke, his favourite beach on the north coast of Cornwall and one where we both had very happy memories. Luckily Sunday was a sunny if windy day and so Deb and Molls and I set off for our favourite spot with camera and hankies.

As we neared the car park, I put on a Queen CD and guess what the first track was? Another One Bites the Dust. Deb and I laughed – it was just as if Pip was running the day, which he probably was.

The beach wasn’t too crowded as the tide was coming in and I took pictures on the way down, then Deb said she’d take over as cameraman as I scattered the ashes over the sea. Trouble was, I couldn’t get the tin open. (Pip’s sense of humour no doubt.) Then once open, I shook him free but suddenly Deb shouted, “Sue!” The tide was rushing up the sand, roaring over my feet as we both ran backwards, trying to avoid the incoming waves.

We had a big hug while Mollie danced in the shallows and roared up and down the beach, then walked up to the Bowgie pub where we sat outside with a glass of wine each, a packet of crisps for Molls and felt that Pip would very much have approved.

I’ve kept a few ashes in a tin which is still on his side of the bed. When I told Deb she said, “When you get together with someone else and take him back to bed, you’d better move Pip,” she said. “They might be put off if they know your husband’s watching.”

But back to Saturday’s gig at Miss Peapods in Penryn where Joshua Caole started playing and singing and that got us in the mood. He was followed by Chris Woods, an incredible acoustic guitar player who uses ‘string slapping’ to produce amazing percussive effects by finger tapping, rapid drumming and ordinary finger picking. Well worth a listen.

Last on was Cole Stacey, a great singer and guitarist who, after a few numbers, asked if anyone was up for a sing. Well, of course I said YES! which astonished most of the audience. Cole was delighted, and asked me to sing lead vocals (in fact a few choruses) which was a good warm up for the rest of the audience to sing along.

I had a great time and you know, the nicest thing was, as we left they were all standing outside. I said thanks for a great evening and hoped they would come back for another gig. They turned and said, “Oh it’s Sue! Thanks, Sue – you made the gig!”

Like my other friends, Pip would be bursting with pride.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Food, glorious food

I’ve been suffering from a bad attack of frozen shoulder which has been agony and meant not being able to type or write – bit of an occupational hazard for a writer. Today it’s feeling a bit better but as I have to transcribe an interview I did on Friday, and am interviewing Ian Rankin on Monday (a phoner, sadly, not meeting the man in person), I am saving my energies, so here is something I was asked to write some time ago. About food.

About 15 years ago I developed an intolerance to caffeine which means that tea, coffee and chocolate turns me into a hyperactive lunatic incapable of sitting still. My heart pounds, my hands shake – it’s like having a panic attack. A high price to pay for a few moments of indulgence.

So now I drink decaff coffee, Rooibosh tea and pass on chocolate. Occasionally the odd bit is tolerated, but only a little.

But oh, I do miss it. Looking at a piece of chocolate cake the other day, I could taste the rich velvety sweetness on my tongue. The seductive way it would stick to my teeth. I would sample the dark heaviness for minutes, hours later. Chocolate should be made by kings and queens for royalty, I think. When indulging in chocolate, it should be eaten slowly, every mouthful savoured, lingered over.

I long for the rich bitter taste of freshly brewed coffee that goes so well with bacon sarnies or buttery croissants. When I smell fresh coffee drifting out from someone’s window I sniff, like a Bisto kid, and the smell of it invigorates me, even if I can’t drink it. If other people have a cup, I grab it and inhale, like a glue sniffer. I can imagine the seductive way it slips down my throat, seeps round my system like a snake, winding up the parts that other drugs can’t reach.

I remember, years ago, having friends over for a meal and someone brought a home made tiramisu. This was a way of combining all our favourite foods in one. A smorgasbord of secret delights. A marriage of two powerful families: the rich, powerful coffee with the sensuous, fecund chocolate. Their union resulted in a dish of previously unimagined decadence with an ermine lacing of cream, topped with teasing shavings of chocolate.

Who could resist that?

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Last To Go

Life continues to throw up surprises. Some of them good, some not so good, all of them emotional right now, but what’s new?

On Saturday we sang at Newquay Fish Festival which was a great gig with unexpected sunshine, cheerful, welcoming audiences and sardines barbecued on the harbour front, crab pots being made of willow, good cider and a van stuck on the beach with rapidly incoming tide.

On Sunday I joined some friends at Falmouth’s Princess Pavilions where Gweek Silver Band was playing, and this reminded me of Pip’s cornet, sitting unplayed and neglected by his side of the bed. My brother in law and I had discussed the cornet months ago and agreed we’d much rather it went to someone keen who would play it regularly, preferably in a band, but I’d had no response to previous emails.

So on Monday I emailed the Cornwall Youth Band and have had several phone calls from very keen cornet players. All of them female, which Pip would approve of. One is so keen that her mum is driving down from Devon this morning to come and pick it up and pay me cash.

So far I’ve been really lucky – everything of his with emotional value has gone to a really good home which means far more to me than any money. So fingers crossed for this one. In between bouts where my tears drip like an ongoing tap, I have a good feeling about it, and this will complete the list of things to be sold.

Unless anyone fancies a sausage maker?

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Another Wave

Last Saturday I finally got round to inviting several friends round who I’d been wanting to get together all year. So it was arranged that everyone would bring something to eat as well as wine so all I had to do was make two cottage pies and move the tables and chairs around before they arrived.

Darling Pip would always get in a fluster before we had people for a meal. I would be banned from the kitchen - “get out Pop. Go and lay the table,” while he created dish after dish of wonderful food with the aid of a few glasses of wine. Or whatever he was currently drinking. Our visitors always had a great time, were very well fed and watered and reeled off into the night at some late stage.

This time it was much more laid back. I'd done everything by late morning so I could relax in the afternoon – just as well as I get exhausted spells and this was one of them.

I wore The Dress – which has been christened twice now, and much admired by everyone. It’s also very comfortable, warmer than I’d thought and one of those dresses you put on and feel really good in. The first christening was at a brilliant gig in Falmouth where a friend’s partner tipped Tribute down my left boob. But no matter. It gave me something to sip at while I waited at the bar.

Pip would have loved the dress, and would have approved of the evening (though not the fact that other people brought food). But we all had a lovely time, everyone helped me clear and wash up, so there was very little to do the next day. But oh, how I missed him. Sitting next to me round the table. Sharing the evening. And the post mortem, lying in bed the next morning having a cuddle.

Mollie and I sat on my steps the next morning in the sunshine with a cup of tea, looking out to sea. Where he is and is not. And I wondered about life. How you can so easily take people for granted, and suddenly they’re gone.

This time last year we were about to go on holiday. Shortly after that he became very ill, a month at home and then the last two months of his life in hospital. So I'm aware that the rest of this year is going to be tough. Full of memories I would rather not have. But as Pip once said, “life is about how you deal with setbacks, Pop, not successes.”

This is one setback that I hadn’t envisaged happening so soon. But I do believe that life throws things at you and you have to deal with them. Somehow. One of my ways is by writing down my journey.

So thank you for reading and thank you for your support. You make all the difference.