Saturday 29 December 2012

Victims and survivors

This was taken on the Isles of Scilly on a sunny April day - yes we did have some sun last year!

Last Christmas was one of the best I’ve had for a long while, whereas this year it was really hard. I was looking forward to it, but on Christmas Eve morning a load of gremlins crept into my pillow and took up residence and as a result I had a very soggy time. (I was talking to a friend later and said, “don’t you find crying makes you terribly hungry?” She laughed. “Sue. Everything makes you hungry.” She has a point.)

Anyway, I’d just about struggled through the Festive Season, tearing down my Christmas cards in a fit of weeping rage, swearing that next year I will go away and not have anything to do with it, when Boxing Day came along and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Then on Friday 28th I had a very cheering phone call from a dear friend, and came back home feeling happy for the first time in a while. Turned on the computer and saw an email from the agent who was so keen on my novel. I almost didn’t have the nerve to read it, but of course I had to. And it’s a No.

While I had sort of been expecting this – or preparing myself for this – the reality is hard to deal with. It’s like dealing with an abusive lover who kicks you in the stomach, gives you a black eye, then turns round and says, “Sorry, darling.” So you try harder next time. And still they beat you up. You weep, rocking and clutching the pain and wondering what it is about you (or the novel in this case) that isn’t right. And still you keep going back. (I would add that this has never happened to me, in case you’re worrying, but it has to one of my best friends.)

I’ve had some lovely messages of support: Nik said that every time I get closer and closer and there must be the right agent out there. It’s just a matter of finding them, which I will. Deb said, “I couldn’t do it, Sue. I don’t have your perseverance, your tenacity,” as I wept down the phone displaying neither of these characteristics. And Christy said, “this happened to me, Sue. But I’ve read your writing. It isn’t you. Hang on in there,” which made me burst into tears again.

I’ve read several books recently, but none of them are ones that I’ve really thought, “wow!”. So I think this must be what it’s like to be an agent. You can read a book and think, well, there’s nothing wrong with it. I just haven’t fallen in love with it. So I need to find the right agent who will.

Life tends to kick you in the teeth when you least expect it, or are able to deal with it. But listening to a programme about victims and survivors this morning on Radio 4 made me think, I refuse to be a victim. I’ll weep and wail, have a few drinks and start over again. I won’t give in.

So I leave 2012 on a downer. But it means I can start 2013 afresh. I shall be boating again shortly (hooray), I’ve got some lovely things to look forward to - a sailing trip on a Tall Ship being one – and will send my novel out again to another agent. Someone, somewhere, must fall in love with us.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Book signing and Next Big Thing

I have to pass this theme on – but first of all many thanks to my lovely mates who turned up for my book signing and came for lunch afterwards. For those that say the age of the book is over – it’s not! The tills in Waterstones rang continuously for the 2 hours that I was there – though admittedly this must be their busiest time of year.

Here’s hoping that my next book signing (she says, being optimistic) is the novel.
As it's the winter solstice on Friday, here's one taken at Lanyon Quoit over a year ago - sun going down.

Now, having been kindly nominated by Debbie White for The Next Big Thing. I have to answer these questions:-

What is the working title of your book?
FOUR LEFT FEET – and you have to read the book to discover why!

Where did the idea come from for the book?
It came from several things:- going to a friend’s funeral and noticing a well dressed man sitting beside me, at the back, weeping all the way through. He obviously loved the deceased very much, but why wasn’t he at the front, with the family, and why did he rush off straight afterwards, without talking to anyone? Later on, Pip said, looking at the children, “I wonder who Matt’s father is?” and that got me thinking….

I also wrote it because my husband had just been diagnosed with cancer and I was wondering how the hell I would cope if anything happened to him.

What genre does your book fall under? Commercial women’s fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Alan Rickman would play Leo, Cate Blanchett would be Gaby and Maggie (can’t remember surname) would play Tiff.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Leo returns to Cornwall to try to come to terms with losing Gaby, the love of his life; in doing so he finally comes to terms with the past and has a second chance at love.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About 3 or 4 months. But the edits took a lot longer, and I’m sure that if anyone does take it on, there will be many more edits needed.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Me Before You (Jo Jo Moyes); Never Change (E Berg); Thursday Afternoons in the Park

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
A stranger at a funeral (see above), and the strong belief that we all have more than one chance at love.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Since I wrote this, many of the events in the book have come true. Even down to the dialogue, on occasions!

When and how will it be published?
That is in the lap of the gods – or rather, the agent who is reading it at the moment.

Now I am supposed to pass this on to 5 other writers who could well be the Next Big Thing.

Debs Car Debs has just got an amazing agent for her novel so she is well on her way...
Chris Stovell Chris's second novel Move Over Darling has just been published by Choc Lit - she's already Got There and I loved this novel as much as her first, Turning the Tide.
Emma Timpany (but she has no blog)- a fabulous New Zealand writer who has won several awards for her short stories and aiming for an agent for her novels
Nancy Kinnison - no blog but another very talented writer
Susie Nott Bower - for her fabulous first novel, The Making Of Her which I couldn't put down.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Website, book signing and travel

Waves at Treyarnon Bay, taken a few weekends ago.

First of all, courtesy of dear Neil, my website is now live– Any comments, or if you’d like me to add your link to mine, please let me know.
Also, I’m doing a book signing at Waterstone’s in Truro this Sunday, 16th November from 11-12.30. So if you’re doing some Christmas shopping, please call in and say hello and/or buy a copy or two. I was going to take along a biro but, “A biro?” cried Mr B. “You have to have a proper nib pen to write your signature.” So that told me. Not that even I can read my signature…

Secondly, I've been asked if I’d like to go to Cuba. Cuba? I’ve been longing to go there for years. Though a) neither of us was entirely sober; b) while we’ve been friends for years, I don’t know Nick that well and c) I need to get Moll sorted before I commit myself. Even so – CUBA!!!!! Nick said, “you’d love it,” (as if I need persuading) – so watch this space.

But back to earth. I’ve been mulling over ideas for my next novel. Before you ask, no I haven’t heard anything from the agent who’s currently reading it so am trying not to think about it. Bubbles of excitement, mixed with an icy terror swirl uneasily in my stomach. I’m guessing it’s a No, so preparing myself for that, and working out who I’ll send it to next.

But I digress. I was talking to a friend about one of my characters who leaves his partner to go off sailing. “Surely he wouldn’t do that,” she said. “I’d love to go to Thailand but I won’t because my partner doesn’t want to go.”

“I didn’t go to lots of places because Pip didn’t want to go. Why not go on your own, or with someone else?” I said.

“No, I couldn’t,” she said, looking wistful.

I know we’re all different, but there was a time when Pip was keen to go on another long sailing trip, whereas I wasn’t. “Go,” I said to him, though the thought of him disappearing for 3 or 4 months filled me with a sick dread, and I knew I would lie awake at night imagining the worst. “I’d hate to think I stopped you from doing something you really want to do.”

In the end he couldn’t afford to go and I was highly relieved. But I would never have stopped him. He always said to me, “we’re only here once, Pop. We’ve got to make the most of it.” Looking back, I really wish he had gone, for it would have made such a difference to what turned out to be his last years.

Pip certainly made the most of his life, so I try and do the same now. But I will also make sure the character in my novel does. I would hate to get to my dotage and think, Oh I wish I’d been brave enough to do this, or get together with so and so, or travel to wherever.

We never know how much time we have here – so if there’s something you really want to do, someone you want to be with, or somewhere you want to go - try and do it. Before it’s too late.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Winter boating

Sun going down, from the water.

When I mentioned I’d been boating a few weeks ago, a few friends looked at me as if I was mad. (No, don’t answer that one.)

Well wrapped up (and for someone who feels the cold, I have to), it’s a very different experience from boating in summer. The sense of peace and space, of tranquillity and nature is more pronounced. Coming back at dusk, I had the strangest feeling: the engine chugged along but only by looking at the riverbank could I see that we were moving at all. It felt as if we were suspended in time and motion.

When the light leaks from the sky, dusk has a supernatural feel to it, as if anything could happen. Hobgoblins could whisk us away, space ships could land on deck – or we could sail off into the deep blackness of a long night.

One day, we passed an old tree that had been struck by lightning: its bare branches stuck up in the gathering gloom like arthritic fingers. It’s become a heronry, and occasionally you see the big birds huddled in the tree like vultures. Otherwise, I’ve only ever seen herons alone, standing in silent contemplation, or watched them flap lead-heavy wings, limping into the sky. I’d always thought of herons as being serious birds, but that afternoon, looking up, we saw four herons wheeling and cavorting in the sky; stark silhouettes against the stealthy dusk. A joyous image that will stay with me forever.

Being on a boat at dusk – or dimpsy as the Cornish call it – teaches you to look at the sky differently. One night we saw orange in the sky that burnt to a boiling, fiery red. In between Everest clouds, the sky shone through, pale blue, then a delicate pink, a pearly purple. As we looked back, the reflection in the water behind us was orange, underlaid with mother of pearl. And just before the sun disappeared, the sky was shot with a scorched rainbow of colours, as if the horizon was on fire.

There’s a tranquillity about boating in winter; of being the only ones on the water as the afternoon light fades. Foolish, say some, but to me it’s very special, like a treasured secret. Few people wish to share this sensation, preferring the comfort and safety of a walk in the park, or crumpets by the fire. I love both of those, but the delight of boating in winter is an added extra that I hug to myself on the days when the sea is a beckoning glass flat and whispers in my ear. “Come out,” she says. “I’m ready.”

I used to wonder at Pip, Pete Goss, Ellen Macarthur, and the countless other people who have fallen in love with boats. Now I know. They sing in your head, nestle in your heart and seep into your blood. Like the tug of an absent lover, they won’t leave you alone.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Prussia Cove

The above picture was taken recently, at the Rumps, North Cornwall, with one of my best mates. It has nothing to do with this post, but I promised I’d post some of the pictures I took and will share them over the next few weeks. A reminder of a very special walk which I’m writing up for Cornwall Today (also see one at the end of this post, from Pentire Head).

Last week was a real emotional rollercoaster – as my life often is – regarding My Novel and Agent. One day, when the sun shone, I would be optimistic and cheerful. The next, when it rained, I was utterly downcast and miserable. But most of my spare time was spent rehearsing for Prussia Cove.

Ten years ago my friend Paul organised a weekend staying at Prussia Cove for a friend’s birthday. To cut a long story short, the weekend has grown and grown, until 60 of us gathered to stay in various houses and cottages on the estate. We all take food and wine, which we share, and bedding, and logs for the fire, and eat and drink and SING and make music.

It was the second time I’ve been, and a really fabulous weekend – 7 of us stayed in the Lodge, sharing somewhat Spartan bedrooms – and a bath on the landing (!) with long suffering John being the only man. (He opted for being Plug Monitor….)

In fact it worked so well and we got the living room very cosy with a log fire on which we toasted crumpets, and this room became a warm little safe haven against the weather which was dire.

We had two very late nights, a lot of drinking and partying and an incredible selection of workshops (including a scratch orchestra) on both Saturday and Sunday, and after the fancy dress dinner on Sunday, lots of us performed, with varying degrees of success depending on amount of alcohol consumed and levels of exhaustion. (My second performance, with Paul and Janet, started off well, then I panicked, but ended up OK and reduced the audience to gales of laughter, so that was OK.)

We sang a very simple 3 part harmony of Kyrie Eleison on Sunday morning that somehow grabbed me and reduced me to tears with its beauty. It was then a matter of trying to stop, which proved difficult. But we sang such a wide variety of numbers, and heard a fabulous standard of musicians, it was quite awe inspiring.

I came away feeling very fortunate to be able to be part of such an event – and we’re all looking forward to booking the Lodge again next time (minus one who will be in Australia!).

So I’m shattered now, going to bed early and waking in the night with music pounding through my head. Roll on next year….

Wednesday 21 November 2012

The Unsettling, and an Amazing Surprise

Two unexpected events over the past week – last weekend I went to review some dog friendly accommodation near Wadebridge, the set up of which was very strange –like walking onto the set of a sci-fi film, or a ghost town, and that feeling seeped into the whole weekend. I came home feeling very uneasy, for a variety of reasons, including Mollie nearly disappearing over the clifftops in pursuit of a rabbit. It made me realise how often life trips you up when you least expect it. Or at least, my life does.

We had some lovely walks – see picture of Treyarnon Bay above – so parts of the weekend were great, and will appear in Cornwall Today, but even transcribing the tapes, I find they have a chilly shadow over them that I need to eradicate to do the walks justice.

But onto the good bit. On Friday I received Highly Commended for the New Talent Award for my novel FOUR LEFT FEET at the Festival of Romance. Unfortunately, due to a blip, I wasn’t told I’d been shortlisted until a week before the event, or I would have gone. As a result I missed out on a reception where I would have met literary agents and other authors (stifled scream).

I only found out that I’d won Highly Commended through a message from Talli Roland on Facebook on Monday morning. I contacted the organisers, my pulse racing with excitement, and received a long and apologetic email back swiftly. But the best bit was that a literary agent was impressed by my work and wants to see more, so she gave me her email address and suggested I send my whole manuscript to her.

I did, and today received an email back from the agent, congratulating me and saying she will read the ms and get back to me as soon as possible. Fear grabs my guts. My stomach swoops and I feel sick, as if I’m in a lift descending far too quickly. My hopes and dreams, tears and hard graft over the past years, lie in 95,000 words of paper sitting on someone’s desk.

I daren’t hope too much – I know too well how incredibly difficult it is to get an agent, let alone a publisher: I’ve been disappointed so often in the past. But to have got this far is a real bonus. And as my dear friend Andrea emailed, “It goes to show that you have to keep at it. Yes, it would be simply wonderful if something did indeed come of this. Then again it might not and instead something else will pop up. Novel writing is not for the faint-hearted; takes enormous tenacity."

So do think of me. Send good vibes towards this agent, please, and hope that she falls in love with my book. Or perhaps can recommend someone else who may. Please……

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Plans and Godrevy

Thanks to everyone for their contributions to my writing dilemma. As I write, I await results of the Festival of Romance New Talent Award tomorrow – not that I think I have a hope of winning, but having got that far has made me realise I need to start sending that novel out. It must have some merit to have got this far.

I am also, in addition to trying to get more journalism work and doing my walks, going to put together proposals for both non-fiction books and see what happens. After all, if you open enough doors, something has to happen (to misquote whoever that was).

Life is, as ever, busy, with my dear friend Viv still away in London fighting family problems – she is much missed by me and Titch by Molls. My boating mate has to leave early, so our winter boating days are at a temporary halt, but leave fabulous memories. But singing continues apace, with several gigs to look forward to, and our Prussia Cove musical weekend very soon.

Yesterday we went down to Godrevy to walk along the cliffs and look at the seals (which were too far away to get pictures of) but above is a glimpse of what we saw. There's nothing like the power of the sea to put things into perspective, and an afternoon spent with dear friends is very special.
And here's another one.

And more news – my website will be live shortly. Will send you a link as soon as it does. If you’d like to exchange links, please let me know.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Head over heart?

Recently, work has been quieter which has given me a chance to think about what I want to do, or should be doing, next. In addition to regular journalism, should I pitch another walks book idea to Sigma? Should I talk to them about another idea I have for a non-fiction book?
And what about my poor novel, that I haven’t had any time to send out?

On Monday a fellow writer, Debbie White, sent me a message on facebook to say well done for being shortlisted for the Festival of Romance New Talent Award (she had also been shortlisted).

It’s been so long since I’ve had time to do anything with the novel that this was a wonderful boost and made me think that I really must start sending it out again. It also made me realise how much I miss writing – the whole craft of it. I feel adrift when I’m not writing, and I hate it. It makes me feel very vulnerable: uncertain of who I am.

So this is the dilemma: should I start pitching a non fiction book that has a much higher chance of being published, but means I don’t get to do much writing – it’s a lot of chasing around – and for not much financial return, but a bit is better than nothing. And I could do with the money. (Actually, the second idea is a very good one that involves almost no writing but could make some money.)

Or do I start sending Leo out again (code name for novel) and possibly start thinking about another novel, which will take up a huge amount of time and has much less chance of publication?

Head over heart.

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Cheap to run

This picture is Porthcurno beach and has absolutely nothing to do with this post, but as it's grey and windy and about to rain, I thought I'd cheer us all up.

I don’t drink caffeine because it started to disagree with me about 20 years ago. By that I mean it makes me very hyper. In those days decaffeinated tea and coffee wasn’t widely available, so I carried on drinking tea, knowing I wouldn’t be able to sit still for an hour or so – or had to go for a long walk afterwards.

Then it occurred to me that I was getting needlessly exhausted, so I switched to the decaffeinated stuff and – believe me – you get used to it. Anything for a more peaceful life. I like my coffee very milky anyway, so it doesn’t make that much difference.

But last Saturday, I had a really busy day. And having had an unexpectedly late night (but well worth it) on Friday, I decided perhaps I’d better have a cup of Real Tea to get me through the morning. I did, and at first it had no effects. But by the time we got to Truro to warm up for a gig at Truro cathedral, I was beginning to buzz. By the time we started singing, I could feel the caffeine running through my system like liquid fire. While I felt so alive I was flying, the shaking legs and pounding heart were strongly reminiscent of a panic attack.

The next few hours passed in a blur – we left Truro and I rushed back to pick up Moll and drove like a bat out of hell to meet a friend and go boating. It was pretty lumpy (ie rough) but we explored a nearby creek, then decided to be reasonably sensible and take the boat back and explore the creekside path on foot with Moll. After that we had a quick drink at the pub – and I got home at around 8pm.

9 hours after having had a mug of tea, I was still flying. Unfortunately Louvitt was exhausted so we went our separate ways and I eventually sorted out things at home and settled down to watch a film with a glass of wine, making sure I stayed up late so the caffeine effects could wear off.

By the following afternoon, having met my youngest brother and his family, had lunch and taken the dogs for a long, bracing walk along the cliffs, I returned home to a cold, dark flat and not only came down to earth but fell into a cold, dark tunnel.

That slump lasted the whole of the following day, when my energies and spirits were so low I could hardly move.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that if that’s the price I pay for one mug of tea, I don’t think I’ll bother. As a friend said the other day, “you are so cheap to run”.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

The unexpected - once more

I had an unexpected holiday in many ways. Firstly, it was in Penzance rather than Crowlas. The cottage was old fashioned and parts of it dark, but the living room and main bedroom faced the seafront and sunshine poured in the windows all day which was blissful. I was more tired than I’d realised and, while I was disappointed that my first guest couldn’t come, I was almost relieved that I had more time to myself. Not that I did very much, but pottering along the seafront in the sunshine (it was very warm and sunny that week) and sitting reading in an old fashioned, high backed chair in the sunshine, with a cup of tea, and watching the goings on along the prom with Moll dozing at my feet was wonderful.

The view from that window changed at every time of day with the weather and the tide. (The picture above is on my first evening, just before the prom lights were switched on.) At low tide I saw a heron one morning, and an egret the next day. Later on, we saw swans having their morning bath. When the tide was high, waves thudded into the promenade wall opposite with a noise like thunder, and the whole cottage shook. And at the highest spring tides, it was like a firework display – first the rumble of thunder from the waves, then they arched over the road and ripped into my garden before splattering all over the walls. That was truly a sight to behold.

I have several friends in Penzance so it was good to catch up with them – as a result Mollie went to her first private view which she thoroughly enjoyed, and I managed to catch up with an elusive editor. My friends Deb and Rich arrived half way through the week and we had a wonderful day out walking at Porthcurno and Porthgwarra, visiting St Just and a drink at the Tinners Arms in Zennor.

So while the first part of the holiday was extremely quiet it was just the rest I needed. Funny how life can turn out to give you what you want, even if you don’t know you need it.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Troubles come in threes

I'm in need of a Soothing Image this morning - so here's one taken on the way back from a lovely day out, having met Terence Coventry. Feel better now?

I never realised how uneven and gritty our pavement is until Sunday night, when I found myself face down, nose an inch from the ground. And no, I had not been to the pub. But, having retraced my steps, somewhat gingerly, this morning, I realise I slipped on some slippery bits of bark (it was raining, hard). There was a sickening wrench, when I felt my ankle go over, and next thing, I was flat on the pavement, with blood pouring from my hands. I struggled home (not far), limped up the steps and spent the next half hour trying to extricate gravel from my palms, wishing my mate round the corner wasn’t away – that First Aid kit has come in handy on the few occasions I’ve needed patching up.

Next morning, I thought I’d take Moll for a short walk round the block, but couldn’t believe how painful my foot was, and hobbled home in agony. It didn’t help that my palms are devoid of several layers of skin; courtesy of bandages, typing is possible – just – as I have a piece for Cornwall Today to finish, but washing up or pulling on a jumper or putting on a coat is – er - painful.

I looked up Treatment for Twisted Ankle on the internet. In amongst RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation), one site advised, "take it easy! Let others look after you for a change." I did suggest this to Moll but she gave me a filthy look and spilt the tea.

Being sedentary is not good for me (dear friends are helping walk Moll in the interim). Apart from making me feel like a caged animal, hobbling has thrown my back out, so I have to sit watching TV with offensive foot up on a cushion. Last night, watching Mamma Mia for the umpteenth time, I sat and wept and laughed - I’d forgotten what a joy that film is. I even managed a sitting down bop at the end.

Then on Monday night I rang the caretaker of the holiday cottage I’m going to on Saturday to say what time I’d be arriving. “But I’ve got you down for this week,” she said. My spirits crashed through the floor. To cut a long story short, there’s been a mix up and I can’t go there. But thanks to a coterie of friends and network cornwall, I’m now fixed up with a cottage along the seafront in Penzance, which will be a good place to explore from.

They say troubles come in threes, and the last one concerned my website, which a friend had said she’d do several months ago. Nothing happened, and when I asked her last week she said she didn’t have time. In brief, I’ve found someone who will do my website me if I help him with writing copy for his business. Sounds a great idea, and I look forward to working with him.

And now, I must go and pack…. A hot water bottle, flippers and a snorkel, given the forecast. But at least I got a bagful of books from the charity shop for £1….

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Unexpected walks and boating

The above picture was taken a few weeks ago at Coverack – when it was summer, for a brief and unexpected day.

Last weekend was full of unexpected walks - on Saturday a group of us from singing went (with our dogs) to Constantine where Natalia had organised a walk where we all listened to tapes of people from Constantine talking about their backgrounds – the mining, the history of the area – and why Constantine was important to them – while we walked. This was part of her PhD in Music and Movement, and we collected outside the Tolmen Centre in Constantine which is a fabulous venue for films, events and a brilliant café – definitely worth another visit.

It was a sunny, autumn day where the leaves were turning and crunched beneath our feet and the sky was a lazy Wedgewood blue streaked with mare’s tails. We gathered in an old quarry in the woods for a picnic half way round and sat in the sunshine while John fed Moll crisps when he thought I wasn’t looking. It was lovely to do a walk listening to the tales of people from the area, then share a picnic with friends old and new.

The following day I met my friends from Coventry – Jane and John – and as it was low tide, we set off along the foreshore from Penryn to Flushing, investigating all the boats as we walked. While Jane’s sister rang for a long phone call, John and I noticed a flock of what turned out to be curlews, crying and gathered on a spit of land - we’d never seen so many birds together like that before, and they were still there on our way back, several hours later.

It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon with good friends, talking about boats. And I have to say, as my boating mate is away, I do so miss it – and it’s only six days since I was last on a boat. Mind you, as anyone who’s been around boats knows, it’s important to have the right company and the right vessel. Get either wrong and the experience can go from joyous to miserable very quickly. But on Sunday it was a lovely morning and I looked out to sea where the sun sparkled on the water and thought – I want to be out there.

I miss that lovely feeling of space and freedom, of feeling the water cradle and rock the boat. I miss the peace and contentment that being on the water gives me – where all the everyday troubles somehow float away with the tide. I miss feeling the wind in my hair, of standing at the helm watching for other boats (“steely eyed Kittow”), for buoys or cormorants. Of seeing Moll, with her ears streaming back in the breeze – even she has a little boaty grin, for she has become a true water babe.

But there are good days in autumn and sunny days in winter, so it’s not all doom and gloom. In the meantime I will look for some winter boating gear and have some land based adventures.

Talking of which, I attended a Sitting Down Exercise Class last week in order to write it up for Cornwall Today. Since then, my back has been agony….More next week, from Crippled of Cornwall

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Listen to your body

This picture was taken on the Lizard - Moll admiring a very lovely stone sculpture, before having a wonderful game of chase on the beach. Dogs are particularly good at listening to their bodies - which is what this post is all about.

Would you believe I’ve been doing another dog review? And just in case you think I’m leading the life of Riley, I don’t have any other reviews coming up. So that’s the end of my gadding about. Back to walking around Cornwall again…..

Talk about it never rains but it pours – and there was plenty of that on Sunday when we set off, in torrential rain and gale force winds, stopping to see my mum on the way. We headed onto Dartmoor by which time the fog descended and you could almost hear the wolves howling over the tors, but we finally found the hotel (which took a bit of finding) and had a lovely few days. Despite the weather.

The place is called Cherrybrook and has 7 rooms, all with lovely bathrooms and incredibly comfy beds, and the most wonderful views over Dartmoor. At 7pm each night the bar opened and we cracked open the wine, then had a 3 course dinner. Well, I couldn’t quite manage 3 courses but Viv valiantly struggled through, and we took the dogs for a quick walk in the dark, crashed into bed and slept as if drugged.

The first morning I was so tired at breakfast all I could think about was going back to bed. So we gave the dogs a run and as Viv had to finish her German OU coursework, she made a coffee and did that while I pushed aside any feelings of guilt and snuggled under the duvet. It felt so decadent it was blissful. And, I knew, just what I needed.

I dozed for a bit, read for a bit, then slept for an hour. I woke up and hugged myself, sent a friend a text and dozed a bit more. I felt as if I was playing truant – going back to bed is something I’d never do at home, but we felt so removed from real life, it was just the right thing to do - and all the better for the autumn gale howling outside our window.

I got up later, by which time I needed to eat again, and set off in search of food and a post office so Viv could post her coursework and I could send a postcard. And after refuelling, we set off through Bellever woods and had a wonderful walk through the trees.

We both felt incredibly relaxed afterwards, and it made me realise that sometimes we have to go away from home to realise just how tired we are. I said to a friend last night that the next review I have, we must do that – go away, and sleep all morning if we need to.

A lot of us have very busy, stressful lives which means that often we don’t listen to our bodies.

It’s about time that we did.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Another review

View from the barn we stayed in.

Last weekend I did another review up at the most gorgeous converted barn in East Devon just outside a remote village called Plymtree which is the sort of place you only go to if you’re looking for someone – or you’re lost.

The barn had been beautifully renovated with fabulous oak doors and furniture and was very light and spacious, looking out over sheep filled fields and orchards filled with ruby red cider apples, and in the far distance, Dartmoor lay shrouded in mist.

We had to visit the local pub of course – the Blacksmiths Arms – where Moll roamed happily off the lead, eating crumbs off the floor, before we went back for our supper – a Flowerpot special that went down very well, washed down with Lidls Chardonnay. Very good.

The next day we did the review with the farmer’s wife, Sue, and Mike the farmer came over and asked if we’d like to stay another night as it was empty! We said YES! before realising that we had tickets for the St Ives festival on Sunday night so had to get back.

We stopped off at Okehampton railway café for huge burgers that were grilled on a barbecue at the station by a friendly fellow who gave us extra onions and cheese on top – no extra charge. Suitably refreshed, we chanced upon a car boot then headed back via Bissoe to give Mollie – and us – a run.

Deb and Rich had saved us seats at the Guildhall in St Ives and despite being tired by this time, it was a really lovely end to the weekend.

Always difficult coming down to earth after a few days away like that, isn’t it?

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Radio interview and Terence Coventry

The radio interview with Source FM went very well apparently, according to those that listened. I certainly enjoyed it, though there were a few hairy moments for which I was unprepared, such as talking about my anorexic years, which is a period of my life I try and forget about. But apart from that, I enjoyed it. And had various comments, such as, “you have an addictive voice on radio – you should do more of this,” and, “you’re better than Jenni Murray,” – but the latter was somewhat biased…..

Life has been busy as ever – we had another lovely boating trip on Friday night though the second outboard gave up the ghost in St Mawes harbour just as the sun went down, so we chugged back on the Suzuki, arriving back in the dusk having watched the sky turn a kaleidoscope of pinks, purples and the palest grey. It really was the most stunning evening, and we repaired to the pub to warm up.

On Saturday we went down to the Lizard to meet the sculptor Terence Coventry who has to be one of the most talented, focused men I’ve ever met. He’s been a pig farmer much of his life but went back to sculpting in 2003, in his early 60s, and now sells his work all over the world.

We had a fascinating hour and a half talking to him and admired his sculptures in the fields near his workshop. He isn’t keen on publicity – his gallery in London sells everything for him – so I may not be able to use the material I’ve got, but it was an incredible privilege to meet such a driven, dynamic artist.

We all know we should ‘live in the moment’ and make the most of the time we have, but it’s rare to find someone who actually lives like this. He’s a true inspiration.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Radio Star and Boating

I saw this when we were on Exmoor and had to take a picture...

I’m sitting here with a gurgling stomach, going over and over my choices and notes for a radio interview this afternoon. Before you get too excited, I should say that this is Source FM, Falmouth’s community radio station, (96.1 FM), not Radio Four. Even so, I’m due to be on air for an hour (gulp), from 4-5pm today, talking first about my walks book, Discover Cornwall, then my life and my six favourite records.

If you’re not in the Falmouth area you can still listen to me and highly edited extracts of my life via broadband on

Luvitt made me read my intro several times last night (though a glass of wine helped) which was really helpful, and I was able to make notes (and laugh a lot) but even so, today my stomach is plummeting every time I think of it, as if I was in a high speed lift. Deep breathing, Jane has just texted me, and a big smile. Remember you have friends rooting for you – how lovely is that? Even so, I am wearing lucky knickers, lucky earrings and - anything else I can think of?

And another bit of news – after a lovely day out on Saturday, I am officially in love with boats again. I had a long period of being frightened of being on the water, but as of Saturday – and again Monday afternoon – that is now over. I’d forgotten the exhilaration and freedom that boats can bring. The way my mind empties of everyday worries, and I just concentrate on steering, constantly checking what other boats are coming up, and looking at the way the wind ruffles the water. Even Mollie took to it like a – er – dog to water……

Cue one Flowerpot with a very, very big grin.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

These boots are made for walking

Picture by Sally-Anne Moore

Walking has become a part of my life that is not only professional but therapeutic. I’ve been asked to lead some walks in the forthcoming Fal River Festival in October which is a new thing for me but something that I think I will enjoy as well as bringing in some much needed money. I’ve never thought of myself as a leader of walks – I love writing about them – but this is another area that I can explore.

A friend said recently that I was lucky in that I can combine what I love doing with socialising and writing about it. He’s right. I am very lucky.

It’s also a good way to make friends. Walking and talking is a good way to share problems. Fast walking is a good way to let off steam – cue this morning, as I whistled along the rainy pavements with Moll, following an incident last evening. The less said about that the better……!

This afternoon I’m picking up Viv as her car’s broken down and we’ll take the dogs for a quick wet walk. Yesterday I went with my new friends Jane and John for a walk near Mawnan Smith, stopping at Trebah for coffee and cake.

I’ve always loved walking. It keeps you fit, yes, but I don’t do it for that reason. I do it because I need to move to think. I can sort out my emotions while I walk. I can sort out plot problems if writing a novel. The opening or closing quote from an interview, or a sentence that doesn’t fit well.

I know we’re all different and many people can’t understand my enjoyment of walking. But I find it almost as essential as breathing. I walk when I’m happy. I walk when I’m sad. I walk when I’m angry, or tired, or bouncy. I walk towards people and away from them.

But I never thought that I’d end up writing about walking, and giving talks about it. I suppose I am now a professional walker. How strange is that?

Wednesday 22 August 2012

The Old Cider House

Last Wednesday Viv and I headed up to Exmoor to review The Old Cider House B&B for a publication featuring dog friendly accommodation (that’s Viv in their dining room). I’ve reviewed several places so far, in Devon and Cornwall – one hotel, one self catering and now this B&B and while they’ve all been a real treat for me, I never know what to expect.

We stopped off at Dartington to take my mum out for lunch at the pub near the care home she’s in. She was much better than the last time I saw her, and can walk better, but she is convinced that she’s not making progress, won’t be able to cope at home etc. She’s much more capable than she thinks she is but she did admit that she badly needs stimulation. Life at the care home is very small and drags her down as the only things going on are meals (and she doesn’t eat enough anyway), medication and visitors. Then she’s in bed by 8.30 because she’s shattered. We’re aiming to get her home but with carers to start off with, and she’d be much better there with her friends around her.

We took the dogs for a run after lunch then headed up to Exmoor, to a small village called Nether Stowey which is like Cranford but with more pubs. At the Old Cider House we were greeted by Ian who took us up to our rooms where, on the bed was a wonderful dog welcome pack – poo bags, home made dog biscuits, tags saying “We are staying at The Old Cider House” and he brought a dog bowl for water as well.

On hearing that my blood sugar level was low he nipped downstairs and returned with home made biscuits for me and some fresh milk so we could have tea in our room before heading out with the dogs. What service!

This is one of the fields nearby - there are loads of places to walk from the B&B. The two day break was fabulous, despite torrential rain both mornings, though we did manage several walks, and also a tour round the microbrewery, where Ian brews his own beer. The food was fabulous and Ian and Lynne couldn’t have been more welcoming and entertaining – in fact, we couldn’t fault anything. We had dinner with them the second night in the Ancient Mariner pub, and went to Glastonbury as Viv had a yen to go there.

So if any of you fancy a few nights away, with or without your pooch, I would heartily recommend The Old Cider House. I can guarantee you’ll have a wonderful time.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Oh, what a night

Deb and Rich and I turned up for Falmouth carnival on Saturday dressed in black suits and white shirts (that's me on the right with my top hat used to collect money), as the band accompanying the Titanic as it went down. Deb and Rich had violins (Rich hadn’t told his daughter that he’d pinched her violin), and I took a pair of handbells that I’d bought at a car boot sale in Exeter about 20 years ago. (I can remember Av looking at them in amazement. “What do you want to buy those for?” she said. “I’ve no idea,” I said cheerfully. And in fact they’ve sat in the flat ever since. See, Av? I knew they’d come in useful one day…)

I’d never thought that taking part in a carnival could be such fun, and hundreds of people turned out to see us, despite a sudden downpour. We were following the Hooverettes, a group from the Seven Stars (pub), mostly blokes, dressed as char ladies who were brilliant, complete with hoovers and overalls, brilliant makeup and saggy, baggy stockings.

Finally we made it to the Watersports Centre at the other end of town where we got a drink and a well earned burger. The atmosphere was amazing – everyone was having such a good time and it wasn’t just alcoholic bonhomie (though there was quite a bit of that). There was a real sense of fun and involvement and I loved it, all the more because it was my first carnival and I collected a lot of money.

A few of us wandered back through town to have a quick drink outside the Seven Stars, then headed back to the Star and Garter, where the marine band and everyone gathered. I wandered home later, dressed in my top hat and ringing my handbells, filled with a happy glow. And no, it wasn’t just the wine...

Oh, and a quick PS. Had several lovely comments about my walks book. They really made my day....

Wednesday 8 August 2012


Before my book was published, one of my best mates said, “I hope fame won’t change you.” I think we both thought I might get too big for my boots. What neither of us had anticipated was that it has actually taken a crowbar to my confidence. I’m having to pick up the tumbled ego bricks and replace them, one by one. Fill in the cracks with cement that I thought would withstand harder knocks. And then it occurred to me that this isn’t about Discover Cornwall, which I am very proud of - especially after Emma's fabulous review, see right.

This is about my mum, whose body has, over the last few months, disintegrated. She is in constant pain and admitted that, without us (offspring), she would have given up. She is no longer my mum, but a frightened, frail old lady who’s lost her confidence.

I’m fortunate in having two brothers who have been fabulous, and Mum’s illness has at least brought us closer together. But it’s that much more difficult being on my own. I confess I’ve felt emotionally drained recently, even sorry for myself, which is something I try never to do. I’ve cried more in the last few weeks than I have done for years, and my sense of humour has gone on strike.

I watched Victoria Pendleton’s last race yesterday, bawling my eyes out. She is someone I admire immensely – she has worked so hard to get where she is, risking her own career when she fell in love with her coach, and his. But she followed her heart, listened to her instincts, and can now retire – at the top - with an amazing career behind her. And a new life ahead of her.

I looked at her and my heart swelled. What courage, and what an inspiration. She made me think that yes, life is tough, but there are the good bits and they always counterbalance the really difficult bits.

Yesterday I remembered how I felt when I first became a journalist. I couldn’t sleep, and lost weight, worrying about my workload, whether my writing was good enough – all that stuff. My dear husband said, “It’s only work for god’s sake,” – he couldn’t understand my anxieties which made me feel even more alone and useless.

But after a while it settled down. My sense of humour re-emerged, like a myopic mole from a tunnel, blinking and saying, “thank god that’s over.” We all go through times in our life that are incredibly stressful and it takes a while to work out how to deal with it. If nothing else, it’s teaching me that we are all more fragile than we think. And at the same time, stronger.

In my case, I need to grab my courage by the scruff of its neck, entice my sense of humour out of hiding. Yesterday I wrote a ridiculous invoice to a friend which cheered me no end. I went and wept all over another friend and then listened to her problems. Which reminded me how important love and laughter is.

And on that note, think of me in Falmouth Carnival on Saturday, marching along dressed as the Fat Controller (or Thin Controller in my case) with two floats – Thomas the Tank Engine and the Titanic. A little silliness is essential in life. A lot of silliness is even better.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Book launch - writers beware

Saturday morning I woke at 4am with my stomach griping and thought, oh no, not another tummy bug. Then I realised it was nerves. They continued all morning but I’m glad to report the presentation went really well – a very appreciative audience who all asked lots of intelligent questions, and the slides went without a hitch. Furthermore, once I got going, I really enjoyed it!

The whole day was a rush, but on the way down to our launch party, I suddenly felt a pang of – not nerves, but vulnerability, though I guess they’re closely related. But in fact the evening went off very well – I sold 25 books and Suzanne sold a fair few paintings. I was amazed at how many friends turned up (see beautiful flowers that my dear friend Emma brought, arranged beautifully from her garden), we ran out of booze twice and despite waves of exhaustion, I got second wind and suddenly it was 9.30 and I felt desperately wobbly.
Suzanne and I cleared up and went over to the pub over the road with some of her friends, but I was too tired to make a session of it, so decided to have a reasonably early night. I wasn’t looking forward to going home on my own – several of my best friends were all away, or we would have ended the evening together – but I headed back through town and by the time I got home I was feeling badly in need of a cuddle. Again, of course, if my other mates had been here I would have got lots of cuddles, but twas not to be.

I thanked god for an ecstatic welcome from Moll, and jumped into bed to cuddle her for the night. Not quite the same but better than nothing. I’ll be better by the morning I thought.

But morning came and I felt wretched, and for the first time since that wave of intense grief after Pip died, I found I couldn’t stop crying. I’d expected to feel wobbly if I’d had a novel published, but not a walks book – I’ve been writing walks for years, but I guess a book is different. For the rest of that day anything and everything made me cry - the bloke who came to clip Mollie never turned up, a friend who was going to ring, didn’t, and I had an email from a bookseller to say how much he disliked the book cover. I cried myself to sleep that night.

The next day Suzanne rang to see how I was. I was still weepy but relieved to hear that she always feels incredibly vulnerable before and after an exhibition. “It brings up all sorts of insecurities because you’re laying yourself open,” she said. So it’s not just me.

Several days on and I’m still a bit weepy but my best mates are returning soon, I’m looking forward to some good cuddles, and I see on Amazon that there’s only one copy of Discover Cornwall left.

But for anyone else about to have a book published, be careful. Publishers should supply a box of hankies and some stickers entitled FRAGILE, HANDLE WITH CARE and, for those of us who are tactile, CUDDLES NEEDED.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Book launch here we come!

Here's the official invitation picture of the front cover of my book, together with one of Suzanne Crook's paintings - we're having a joint preview/book launch on Saturday at Pizza Express in Falmouth from 7-9pm. Do come if you're anywhere near!

Learning how to be a writer in terms of marketing is, as I know all other published writers will say, a steep learning curve and one outside our normal mode of operation. Deadlines, words, computers, stress etc., yes we all know those. But suddenly a door opens and I have a BOOK to market – to be precise I have a box of 100 of them in my hall, ready for the Penzance Literary Festival, where I am to give a presentation on Saturday afternoon, before the book launch.

I’m much more nervous about the talk, as that involves a presentation with slides. I’d planned to go down to Morrab Library to do a recce weeks ago but one day their phone was out of action, and last week I was housebound with tummy bug. So I earmarked yesterday (Tuesday).

Then last Friday I realised that the van needed its MOT and I have to pay the tax next week. Garage fitted me in yesterday morning and I left it there, took Moll for a slow walk (legs still not working properly) and had a cup of tea sitting in the sun, rejoiced in the fact that summer had arrived and the van was soon to be sorted.

Got back to garage to find it had failed its MOT and the garage couldn’t fix it until Thursday morning. I nearly wept when I realised about my Penzance recce. Two of my best friends who I’d normally beg for a lift are away, but I finally got a lift with my dear Swedish friend who sacrificed an afternoon’s sailing in order to get me out of a pickle. I grovelled to her and her husband, and thought, well I’ll go and get her lots of flowers from the Farmers Market: she loves fresh flowers. So I bought up the stall of dahlias and pinks, sent her an email asking her which she prefers. The reply came back, “Neither, sorry.” Well, at least I get lots of flowers and will buy her some more. But the recce was a good idea, and I feel a bit more confident about the talk having had a run through with several friends now.

But summer has arrived which makes everything more bearable. While I was on holiday recently, I was in Helston with a friend who got me a lovely green cotton skirt from a charity shop – the kind that floats and swings happily when I walk, is gorgeously cool and is one of those skirts that just makes me feel good. Since getting it, of course it’s been far too cold to wear, but yesterday I dug the skirt out and wore it all day. If the weather keeps up, I’ll wear it every day…..

But back to books - think of me on Saturday when my guts will be churning in front of a probably non-existent audience in Morrab Library at 2pm. Then I race back for the book launch which is from 7-9pm at Pizza Express in Falmouth so if any of you lot are around, do drop in!

Not that I’m superstitious, but I shall be wearing my lucky knickers AND my lucky silver necklace. Given the last couple of weeks, I’m not taking any chances.

Friday 20 July 2012

One of those weeks - or Lo and Behold things can only get worse

This week I feel as if I’ve been permanently drunk, but without the fun bits. You know, head spinning, that floaty, weightless feeling – though that’s due to having spent a large part of the week on the loo (no further details necessary, I’m sure).

This has been One of Those Weeks, not helped by this tummy bug that has left me as weak as a wotnot. It came after a lot of stress at work, followed by a heartwrenching trip to see my poor mum last weekend. She is so frail, and so down, and so helpless and has just had another fall, leaving her with a black eye, bruised arm and hand and shattered confidence (not that she had much by this point). Leaving her was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.

On the way home I rang one of my brothers whose phone was off. I rang one of my best mates and his phone was turned off too. I sat in the car park and wept onto the steering wheel: those big gulpy tears that hurt so much you can’t breathe. And then I looked at poor Moll, dried my eyes and drove home, was taken out that night and much cheered.

The next day I had some bad news on the work front that could actually turn out to be good news, and The Bug hit me that evening. Suddenly I lost all strength and had to lie on the sofa, shivering. And on it went.

But yesterday I actually managed to keep all food down and today – big excitement – I am planning a shower and changing my duvet, if energy allows. Can hardly wait. The most difficult bit has been organising a walks rota for poor Moll.

But the good news? I sold my first book….

And now excuse me while I crawl back into bed. Sorry this wasn't meant to be a Post of Gloom....

Wednesday 18 July 2012


Quick note to all readers to say please check back later in the week for a proper post. Am currently confined to bed with bad tummy bug. Hope to improve by end of week. Please send food parcels and dog walker.

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Discover Cornwall for sale now!

First of all, my walks book, Discover Cornwall has arrived from the printers! And it’s for sale online – link here. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this, the description on Amazon is actually about a book of Welsh walks but don’t be deterred – Discover Cornwall is really about Cornwall. Just a small error which should be sorted by the time you read this.

The past week has been fraught with nerves and excitement. At last my copies arrived from the publisher on Saturday morning – I grabbed the cardboard package, tried to rip it apart and couldn’t because of the heavy duty gaffa tape, and tackled it with the scissors instead.

Out fell the first copy – and I saw Sue Jackson on the front. Reading the spine, I saw Sue Kittow. On the back it says Sue Kittow. Inside it says Sue Kittow.

I shan’t repeat what I said, but I’m sure you get the drift. Glossing over that, I flicked through the book but all I felt was an anticlimax. All that hard work and it’s written by two Sues. As a friend said, most people know who I am, but that’s not quite the point. Later, I showed it to a friend who’s an ex-journalist. She struggled to sound positive and I agreed with her. But in the pub with friends later, they all seemed so enthusiastic, my spirits rose a little.

Then one of my best friends saw it later. “It looks really good, Sue,” he said, giving me a big hug, and I could see pride in his eyes. Real pride. He turned the pages over carefully, as if it was something special, and as he did, my spirits rose even higher.

On Monday I had a profuse apology from the publisher. Last night some writing friends came round and the book was passed from hand to hand. They all enthused over it, said they’d come to the book launch and buy copies there. And Emma said, “Just think, when you’re famous this’ll be worth a fortune on ebay!”

It’s amazing how easily a simple mistake can become a disaster. And how a disaster is really just a little mistake.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Holidays and Copies of My Walks Book

My week in Coverack was lovely, thanks (see above for where we stayed - one of the top floor flats in a converted hotel) despite dreadful weather for the first part of the week but we relaxed and ate well, explored the area and generally had a good time, as did the dogs. Second half of the week cheered up so we were able to do a CT walk in sunshine (gasp) and get out and about – all in all it was very relaxing and I can’t wait to go back as it was a stunning spot.

Just as well I was so relaxed as I got a phone call on Friday to say I need a new boiler…… thank God it was a cheap holiday.

I have been tagged by Rena George to answer the following questions, but given that my forthcoming book - which I will receive copies of THIS WEEK - is non-fiction (about Cornish walks), the answers aren’t what they might be.

What is your title and how did you choose? The title of my walks book is Discover Cornwall – a book on Cornish walks.
2. What came first – location, character or plot? The locations, definitely.
3. Did you enjoy writing this book or was it hard going? There are elements of all walks that I find tough going – like life – but it’s worth it in the end.
4. Do you write in sequence? No – but for novels I do!
5. Are you a planner or a plotter? Non fiction books have to be planned well – you have to know the structure before you start.
6. Did you know the end before you started? Yes.
7. Which do you prefer – writing that first draft, or editing it? I used to love that first draft as it’s so exciting, and hate editing. Now I can see the value of both.
8. Could you write a sequel? Yes one planned for 2014.
9. When you type ‘The End’ are you elated that you’ve got there, or sad, knowing how you will miss your characters? Both. With non-fiction and fiction books, it’s hard letting go – or knowing when to let go.
1 Which genres do you love and hate? There are no genres that I hate, but I don’t tend to read too many thrillers as they keep me awake at night.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Update and Holidays

Life continues apace – I’m writing a presentation for a talk I’m giving next month at the Penzance Literary Festival about how I got into writing walks. Not having delved into the delights of Powerpoint before, this is yet another steep learning curve, then it occurred to me that I need to get some pictures of me and Molls for the talk – as well as various author pics. So on Sunday we hit the Truro car boot (excellent bargains including two lovely skirts), then went on to Carwinion for a walk which resulted in a lovely lot of pics – some of which even I like (which is rare), including the one above.

I’m trying to get as much done as possible as on Saturday I’m off to Coverack for a week. My dear brother in law is house sitting, making sure that his Lordship (aka Bussie) has his every need catered for, and Joe upstairs also keeps a lookout for me.

I’m very much looking forward to a break – a bit of time to myself, then two of my best mates are coming down at different times, so if all goes according to plan, I should have a good mix of company and me time. I say this nervously as poor Viv’s mum is in hospital and now her dog Titch has a lump in his nether regions which is being investigated today.

But all being well, I will have the company we planned for. And either way it will be a much needed break and chance to recharge the batteries – I hope! More on my return.

Just to leave you with this that I saw on the back of a van the other day:

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Voting, Polo, 3 Choirs and a Ferry - and website

Please vote for my novel - voting open now on the Novelicious website. (sorry but the link wouldn't copy over.)

Last Thursday, at the Royal Cornwall Show, we were nearly blown away by gales that increased in strength as the day went on. In the morning we explored some of the shows – there’s so much to see that we were spoilt for choice – then headed off as I’d been told to be at the main arena for 1.30 for a photoshoot.

By the time we got there, the show jumping was overrunning so we waited in the grandstand as the skies darkened and the wind whipped around us. But the show jumping was so spectacular we didn’t really notice. By the time the polo came on, 40 minutes late, the rain was persistent, but yours truly launched the polo match, before dashing back to the grandstand, where we sat, with open mouths, watching the polo which was riveting. By the time the match had finished the rain was torrential, but I had my picture taken with one of the polo players and his pony. (Photo hasn’t arrived yet but I will post it up when it does.)

After that we scurried off to the Food tent where we met Camilla, escorted by zillions of cops, and Deb took some pictures of her back view. Finally, at 4pm, as we were wet and frozen, we headed home. En route we picked up Molls and met in the pub where we had a meal and a few drinks and staggered home. We went with little expectations and as a result had a great day which would have been better if one of our party could have made it, and the weather had been better. But it was such fun.

Then on Saturday I took Molls for a long walk in the morning as the weather was glorious and I knew she’d be cooped up for the rest of the day. I dropped her at a friend’s in the afternoon then went to a singing rehearsal for 2 hours (see above video). We’d all taken food, so we had a much needed feast afterwards, then I dashed home to pick up Moll, get changed and head back to the gig at Trelissick Gardens. We sang in the courtyard, to a great audience, then headed down to the ferry at 9.45 and sang on the ferry as it got dark.

Standing there, in the dark, listening to the sound of 80 voices floating across the water – and knowing that we’d made that noise – was truly magical. The lights floated across the river and when a pair of owls hooted, that made the whole evening. I tucked the whole experience away in the tattered wallet of my mind, to take out at later dates. To mull over, and enjoy, yet again.

And now I am working on a website for the walks book which is out next month. If you would like to exchange links, please say so. The more we can help each other, the better.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Once more unto the breach...

(Picture of Carn Brea.)

Life continues to be hectic. My dear sister in law Shelagh has just departed after a far too short stay in which she packed in as much as was humanly possible, but she is much missed by me, Pete and Molls.

In haste here as proofs have arrived for the walks book so I’m checking those and trying to sort out renewing insurance, writing introductions and organising tomorrow – I have won tickets for the Royal Cornwall Show. Not just that but we are to go as VIPs and I am to start the first ever polo match at the Show.

Trouble is, tickets have arrived – and there’s only one. Aaagh…. Cue phone calls and emails.

Typically, the forecast for tomorrow is wet. And windy. And we have to wear Smart clothes. With wellies and macs. Could be interesting.

If you’re anywhere near Westcountry TV on Thursday, look out for the drowned rat throwing a ball to the polo players. On that note, I am to be introduced to polo ponies and players. You know what they say about polo players…..

Then on Friday I have to do a walk for a dog magazine, then on Saturday it’s our 3 choirs and a Ferry gig where we sing on the King Harry Ferry as it gets dark. Last year it really was a night to remember, and I’m sure this year it will be, too.

On Sunday I will collapse in a happy heap!

Wednesday 30 May 2012


The other weekend I was driving to Truro with a friend who spotted a spider crouched in the corner of the van. “Look!” he cried as it scuttled underneath one of the visors. “It’s massive!” As he’d just been bitten by a similar creature a week ago, and his arm had swollen up, I glanced nervously up – and nearly crashed the van. This spider was indeed huge, with black hairy legs and, I could swear, big white fangs. No, I lie, they weren’t white. But I’m sure they were there.

Progress was not helped by the spider running full tilt across the roof of the van. I screamed. My mate gave a running commentary on the spider’s progress which made me scream even more. Finally I pulled into a layby and leapt out of the van, shaking, while my friend flipped the spider into a carrier bag full of CDs and then out of the window (I hoped). Gingerly we returned to the van, peered this way and that, asked Moll if the spider had gone. She said yes (or something similar), so we got back in, my mate laughing uproariously. “I’ve never seen anyone scream like you did,” he cried. “I’d pay to see that.” Bastard. Never fear, he will get his comeuppance.

Anyway, that was about 6 weeks ago and since then I’ve driven several hundred miles without thinking about it. Then a few weeks ago I was driving into Falmouth when the sun came out so I pulled down the visor on the driver’s side – and out scuttled Mr Spider. Pure adrenaline rushed through my veins and I screamed. It jumped onto my lap, then onto my legs and onto the floor. By this time my heart was pounding so loudly I thought it might jump out and I swerved, luckily not hitting anyone, stopped, in the middle of the high street and jumped out. I heaved the mat from under the pedals and the spider scuttled round in circles. I tried to flick it out with an envelope, and it retreated up under the steering column.

By this time a queue of cars had formed but I was not getting back into that van – and then a kindly fellow checked the van over for me, told me it had probably gone up behind the steering wheel, as I feared. There was nothing for it but to get in that van and carry on.

I walked Moll, laughing (albeit somewhat hysterically), knowing what my friend would say had he been there. And then I called in to see my brother in law who listened to my tale, a gentle smile growing as his blue eyes twinkled. “You could get some insect spray,” he said eventually. “But be careful.” And the smile fell off his face. “You mustn’t get distracted by spiders. You might have an accident.”

And he’s right. If that had happened driving up to Devon I’m sure I would have crashed the van. So I bought some insect spray on the way home, squirted it up the steering column (hoping to god this doesn’t muck up the electrics) and waited to see if there was a dead spider in the morning.

There wasn’t. Worse still, when I told my friend he looked at me. “I wonder what it’s eating?” he said, eyes gleaming. “It’s probably huge by now.” I thought of the supply of biscuits I keep in the glove compartment to ward off low blood sugar levels. I thought of that spider, magnified several times over. And I thought of my next trip to Devon, this weekend.

The van’s booked in for a thorough clean today. I’m not risking another meeting with Mr Spider half way up the motorway…

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Vote for my novel and Party

Picture of Lamorna Cove taken on Monday for new walks book.

Today the first 3000 words of my novel FOUR LEFT FEET will be showcased on the Novelicious website. Please comment and vote for me! It’s a long time since I wrote the first draft of this book, and so much has happened since. But a startling amount of what I wrote has come true… The ending might be pushing it, but you never know, eh? One of these days….

And back to Cornish life in the here and now. My party was, I’m glad to say, a great success. I’d asked everyone to bring a bottle and some food, which took a lot of the pressure off me, and Deb and Rich came to help me set things up in the afternoon and help choose what I was going to wear.

After that, the evening just took care of itself which was great. I know a lot of people who don’t necessarily know each other, but according to one friend, “It was jumping” which was as a party should be. Better still, by the end of it I walked into the kitchen to find two friends doing the washing up, and Deb and Rich helped me clear up so by the following morning there was hardly anything to do. Wonderful.

I was pretty tired the next day, but all in a good cause… And despite an overflowing recycling box of bottles, I have about 6 bottles of wine left over. Time for another party I think……

Talking of which, my sister in law from Vermont (Pip’s sister) is coming on Friday to stay. It will be a bittersweet time as it’s the first time she’s been over since he died. A few tears to start with methinks…..

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Sensory Overload

Bluebells at Enys gardens, near Penryn, taken last week. There can be few more luxuriant examples of bluebells en masse.

On Monday morning I was staggering around, like a drunken sailor, reeling from sensory overload. What a weekend. Friday night I’d been to the pub in Devoran, then on to a Steve Knightley gig – what a great musician he is, and thanks to Rich for a lovely evening.

On Saturday Viv and I took Mollie and Titch to the dog show at Port Eliot where I was due to interview Lady St Germans for Cornwall Today. Given the torrential rain we’ve had recently, we were unprepared for a day of fabulous sunshine (just as well given that everything was outside). Port Eliot embodies the very best of Cornish estates – a jewel tucked away near Saltash, resplendent and glorious in a thousand shades of spring green. It really is magical and otherworldly – I almost felt I was Alice, having fallen down that hole and landed in Wonderland.

I interviewed Lady St G sitting on the lawn watching some of the dogs take part (and missed entering Moll for Prettiest Bitch, but all in a good cause) but Moll won 3rd prize in the Veterans Show. As she’s on the Culm Valley website now, and a mate recently described her as “exceptional”, I fear this will Go To Her Head. We didn’t have time to look round the house, so I can’t wait to go back and explore further.

But back to Saturday, and by the time I’d driven Viv home, then Moll and I got back I was so tired I could hardly speak. Next day I set off with Sally to do a walk for Cornwall Today around Black Head, near St Austell. We were both tired and having done the walk before (but it was in thick fog, so we got lost), I thought this would not present a problem.

Those of you that have been on walks with me will know the warning signs. Yes, we got very lost. Took 3 hours to get back to the car, but we found this incredible secluded manor house overlooking the sea, and met the people who were staying there – they paid £300 for the week. Must investigate that…..

Lastly, thanks to the mate who suggested the wireless mouse. It works a treat.

Excuse me if I go and lie down. I have to write these articles up, edit the pictures, then have a rest because I’m having a party on Saturday….. Very sorry those of you who can’t come, but it was impossible to find a date to suit everyone. I might well have one at Christmas, so come to that instead.