Wednesday 30 November 2011

Gareth Malone and London awards

Picture of Minster Church, near Boscastle - a truly beautiful spot.

I was watching Gareth Malone’s The Choir the other night and thought how lucky I was not to be married to someone in the forces, having to live in temporary accommodation, rarely making friends and never knowing when or if you may see your loved one again.

At the moment my mum is not having a good time healthwise but at least we are in regular touch over the phone and I’m seeing her soon. One of my best friends is away and while I miss them at least I know they’re not in danger of being blown up, even if communication is patchy.

What struck me about Gareth’s programme was his realization of how isolated these women were. They literally didn’t have a voice. And while it was hard to get them to believe they could sing, once he did, they were off. You could see the joy in their faces as the music took hold, and the sense of unity that singing together can bring.

That’s what singing does for me, though unfortunately I will have to miss our rehearsal this week as I’m off to London for the Luke Bitmead Bursary Awards – for those of you that missed the news, I have been shortlisted for this novel writing award which would mean getting a bursary but also – more importantly – a publishing contract with Legend Press.

Life in Falmouth has not been without its ups and downs over the past few weeks (as ever), so I haven’t had much chance to think about Christmas and my stomach is currently swirling just thinking about the trip to London. Unfortunately I have also got a sore throat – one of those ones where you feel as if you’ve swallowed crushed glass – and lost my voice.

I know I won’t win it – that would be too much to ask – but I’m hoping that they will agree to look at the novel in its entirety when I’ve finished editing it, and may even publish it – who knows? If nothing else it will be a good experience and networking opportunities.

We’re getting the sleeper back, which gets into Truro at some ungodly hour on Friday morning. I really don’t fancy returning with a terrible hangover, so must remember NOT to have that last glass of wine. You know, the fatal one……

And yes, you bet I’ll will be wearing my lucky knickers.

Wednesday 23 November 2011


The above is – if my technical skills are up to it – a video of us doing a flashmob in Truro – or three, to be precise. For those of you who don’t know, a flashmob is a group of people who get together in a public place to perform for a short time, then disperse. The whole point is that it has to be a surprise, though, so we weren’t supposed to tell our friends.

This video is of us in Lemon Street Market, our last venue, but to start with we all gathered in Marks & Sparks, scattered around the clothing department and waited for 2.30 when our musical director, Claire, had said she would start the singing. Claire was positioned by the bras (the men loved that) and we had to keep an eye on her but look as if we were browsing.

My heart was pounding, my mouth went dry as I kept looking at Claire, idly inspecting a stack of Christmas presents, then she turned around and started singing. We sang a four part round where the basses come in first, then the tenors, altos and us sopranos last. This means each part has to concentrate hard on when to come in (each part sings each line 4 times before the next part comes in) which sounds easy but when your teeth are chattering, it isn’t.

However, as soon as we started singing I forgot my nerves, and M&S has surprisingly good acoustics. It is impossible to describe the sense of spine tingling magic – I felt as if someone had injected me with liquid adrenaline. I shivered and shimmered, it whirled round my head, and I just wanted to sing and sing, more and more. This was the Red Shoes of music.

We did that flashmob in two other places and the last was enjoyed so much the shoppers all clapped so we did an encore, not wanting it to stop. One of the other lovely things about it was the inclusivity – people brought partners, friends and husbands, children and dogs. Everyone was welcome and everyone enjoyed the sense of thrill, of fun, and the spontaneity of it all.

Of course the downside is that we all felt incredibly flat once all that adrenaline had worn off – sadly several good friends were away, but we will be doing another one soon. Watch this space!

Wednesday 16 November 2011

The C Word

(This is actually the reflection of the sun in a puddle in case you're wondering and has absolutely nothing to do with this post.)

The other night I was wide awake (sleep is somewhat disrupted at present) thinking about the C word. Christmas. I’ve never been a great fan, to be honest – I’m not religious, I hate all the commercialisation and overindulgence associated with it, and not having children or grandchildren makes a mockery of much of the festive season.

As Pip died on Boxing Day last year, I am looking forward to Christmas less than usual this year, as you can imagine. But what to do?

Well, much though I love them, I feel very strongly that I don’t want to be with my family. They will be far too aware of This Time Last Year and I am aware that they could be treading on eggshells. I don’t want to be treated like porcelain. I want to be able to howl if I want, have a cuddle then go for a long walk and have a few drinks without worrying about anyone else.

There are a few people I would very much like to be with but most of them are taken up visiting their families. I’ve been invited by several other friends, so have a few possibilities and was reasonably happy with that until I met a close friend the other night for a drink. When I told her what I had vaguely planned she frowned.

“This Christmas I think you should get right away,” she said. “Do something completely different.” And as soon as she said it, I knew she was right.

The trouble is a) where to go, b) with whom (I don’t want to be on my own but I know instinctively who would be right and who wouldn’t, and c) there’s Molls to take into account. She either has to come with me or I need to find someone who can take her over Christmas.

This afternoon I was out walking Molls by the side of a field full of cauliflowers. I looked out over the grey winter landscape, at the blokes with battered coats picking muddy cauli after cauli. Rooks swooped in the distance over Rowland Hilder trees and I thought, “really, it’s only a few days. I‘ll get through it.” And I will get through it. But now that seed has been planted in my mind, I want to do more than just get through it. I’d like, if possible, to enjoy some of it.

What I need is a magic wand and a magic carpet. Failing that – any ideas?

Lastly – and this is connected, I’m not rambling - I’m reading Daphne du Maurier’s The King’s General. The plot is basically that some things in life have to be fought for – happiness, love and ambition in this instance, which reminded me that we all need to believe in what we are doing, and fight our corner, however hard this may seem.

And then I read this Cornish quote, as said to D du M, which I find very soothing: The sea is itself a symbol of the uncertainties of fate. “You will embark on a fair sea, and at times there will be fair weather and foul. Never lose courage. Safe harbour awaits you in the end.”

So regardless of what happens over Christmas – if I end up in far flung snowy wastelands, overheated houses or wave tossed beaches in Cornwall, I will think of the safe harbour awaiting me and those that I love.

Wednesday 9 November 2011


I’d been planning to write something else, but was wide awake at 3am thinking about my visit to Godrevy last week and emotions. This is not a post about grief, but about those emotions that we all have. Love, hatred, desire, jealousy, to name but a few of the stronger ones.

Being oversensitive, I’ve always been swallowed up by my emotions. They’ve tended to rule my life, like a greedy dictator, so I always ran from them. When Pip was very ill, and it latterly became clear that he wouldn’t make it, I was terrified, not least because I’d watched my mother endure my father’s death at a similar age.

But after he died, and I wept my way through those early days, I began to realize that grief is not to be feared: it is nature’s way of helping us deal with loss. Instead of running from it, I took a deep breath, as if I was diving underwater, and swam into it. To my surprise, it was much easier to deal with loss head on.

It is so easy to be overwhelmed by these rollercoasters of feelings that we all have. Some are marvellous and catapult us joyously into the air, so we soar like seagulls. Some fill us with a steady, contented glow. Others leave us stranded and gasping on a lonely beach. I see emotions as being like the sea: they need to be respected. If we can befriend our feelings we can enjoy them and make the most of them, instead of being frightened by them.

In my case I write about them. (The happy ones too.) I sing about them. Or, like the wave above, take pictures of them. Others – who are more visual - may paint, draw or sculpt them. Some dance them (though I only tend to do that after too much wine these days). I find the important thing is to do something with them, and remember that life has crap times and much better ones.

Joy often comes suddenly, as it has recently. An unexpected phone call. A spontaneous visit to the beach when the tide’s out and the surf’s up. A clear sunny day. An email from an old friend.

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed a fleeting feeling - as if I’m sitting on a sun dappled lawn. Or basking in front of a fire. A sensation of inner warmth.

I wondered what it was at first. And then I remembered. It’s little sparks of happiness.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Happy Birthday

This was taken yesterday at Godrevy where I had a lovely afternoon - went on to Hell's Mouth and then tea at Portreath (you know I have to eat about every 3 hours).

Today would have been Pip’s 71st birthday. And while the rest of this year will bring back memories of a very sad and difficult time last year, when I look back over this year I am amazed at how my life has changed.

Pip gave me confidence and love in abundance. He enabled me to become the person I am becoming. I don’t know who she is yet – the process is ongoing – but his absence has made me grow stronger. I am no longer protected by him and have to do things myself – like driving long distances – which I was frightened of.

I went to a fabulous singing weekend at Prussia Cove last weekend where I met new people, stayed in incredible gothic location and walked Molls along a new stretch of the cliffs. I learnt the joy of singing with strangers – outside. Of relaxing on the sofa on the Sunday afternoon while someone strummed the guitar and we all sang along.

I have learnt that I am a singer and that music is a huge source of strength. I am learning photography and how to compose pictures. I am becoming stronger, and able to help others with this strength. I have made several new friends who have helped me hugely. I am learning to live and to love life.

And lastly, I have been shortlisted for the 2011 Luke Bitmead Bursary Award from Legend Press for my novel FOUR LEFT FEET that I am currently editing. I have been invited to the awards ceremony in London on December 1st and hope to go to that, though unlike one good friend, who is convinced I will win, I am not holding out any great expectations. To have got this far is amazing and gives me the boost I need to get on with editing the novel.

So get on with it, Flowerpot……