Wednesday 29 February 2012

Decorating - and who am I?

(This picture was taken at Hawker's Hut near Morwenstow - a fabulous walk in North Cornwall.)

I’ve decided to have my flat redecorated while I’m away for a week in March. This was quite a momentous decision as it means saying goodbye to the Flowerpot who was Pip’s wife. Well, that’s what it feels like.

On a practical level it makes sense. We painted it 13 years ago so it needs doing. Also, the colour scheme involved orange and dark red ceilings which make it dark, and really the flat needs lightening and warming up, so that’s my intention.

Emotionally it also makes sense. As my Irish friend Mari said, “It’ll be a good opportunity to have a good clear out, Sue. Mentally and physically.” Which I’ve started doing.

But taking down all those old photographs made me think. I’m not Flowerpot anymore, though a few people call me that. I shan’t repeat some of my other nicknames, but I am also sometimes Sue Jackson and sometimes Sue Kittow. One is a writer, one is a widow – how I hate that non-word.

What or who am I now? Adventurer, fab friend (according to one birthday card), mother, singer, writer, walker. I am all of these and more besides. But the me that was married to Pip is evolving into someone else.

I’m moving on, and I don’t know who I’ll end up as. Or where, when and for how long. And while that’s exciting in a way, it’s also pretty scary.

It occurred to me that many of us are defined – and therefore define ourselves - through other people. I was Pip's wife. I will, I trust, be someone else's partner. Lover. I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt and a mother. We are also defined by our jobs - I'm a writer, a landlady, a journalist.

I've been struggling with this identity crisis until it occurred to me that underneath all that labelling, I'm just me. Fortunate enough to know that I am much loved.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Gooseham Barton and birthdays

Last weekend Viv, Titch, Mollie and I went off to Gooseham Barton to do another review on dog friendly accommodation. Gooseham is a tiny hamlet 10 miles north of Bude, not far from Morwenstow, and Gooseham Barton is a farm with 3 cottages, a farmhouse, all available for holiday lets. It’s set in 50 acres of an area of outstanding natural beauty and Debbie, who runs it, couldn’t have been friendlier, despite having been without sleep due to lambing. She took us to the lambing barn where we cuddled lambs and she sank onto a haybale with relief. 40 ewes had lambed; only another 60 to go.

She also runs a riding centre there with about 16 horses and there are dogs, cats and more sheep, just in case she didn’t have enough to do (she doesn’t have a partner). But it’s a beautiful spot, very off the beaten track with no mobile phone coverage, and The Bush Inn nearby which was another really gorgeous pub. (Why is it that country pubs are so much nicer than town pubs?)

We did a couple of walks for Cornwall Today – at Morwenstow on Friday and Bude Canal on Sunday – both utterly different. Morwenstow is very wild and rugged, a place with razor sharp rocks that have eaten many a shipwrecked mariner, and home to the Rev Stephen Hawkins, an eccentric, beloved Cornishman known for amongst other things, penning the Cornish national anthem, Trelawney. And for his support of wreckers and his consumption of opium.

The Bude Canal was quiet, reflective, and flat. It was also full of dog walkers and people with young children, so not that sort of quiet, but very beautiful in a tranquil kind of way.

Having two days away was lovely, albeit tiring break as there was a lot of driving, but it was lovely to have good company but - you know what - it made me realise how much I miss having someone to care for. Viv doesn’t have an easy life at home so it was lovely to be able to take her cups of tea in bed, run her bath and cook together. Her partner, Paul, does all those things I’m sure but for me it was lovely, and she enjoyed it too.

So now I’ve got my head down writing reviews, editing pictures and writing up the next walks for Cornwall Today. Next week is my birthday (I’m very nearly a leap year girl but not quite) so I’m going to a (Beautiful) South gig on Saturday which I’m very much looking forward to and a few other meetings. Can't get in the mood right now but maybe a bit of inspiration will hit.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

The Unexpected - In Multiples

Firstly, many thanks to My House from Quercy for the Liebster Award. Unfortunately I haven't been able to copy the logo but I am most grateful!

Last week ended horribly. The sort of horribly that you try and prevent but can, at the time, do nothing about. The sort of horribly that feels as if everything is draining out of you.

I was due to go to a party on Saturday night and a friend asked, “Are you sure you want to go?”
“Absolutely,” I replied. When feeling dire, do something to make you feel better is my motto. So I put on my favourite skirt (car boot last summer), good luck scarf (Christmas present), and at 8.30 we set off.

I found my friend Deb wasn’t at the party, and knowing she had a curfew of 9pm as she was babysitting her grandchildren, I nipped up the road to get her. She wasn’t in her house, wasn’t in the main house round the corner, but her son-in-law answered the door. “She’s in hospital,” he said. “Chest pains again. I’ll let you know what happens.”

I went back to the party and despite worrying over Deb, ended up having a great time. I caught up with some good friends, met several people (yes, men), had a few bops, several glasses of wine, and got to bed rather later than I’d intended.

The following morning was thick with text messages about Deb who was being kept in hospital but as I was heading that way anyway I said I’d see her in the afternoon after doing a walk for Cornwall Today. I collected Viv and set off with the dogs to China Clay country, pausing to drop off some belongings en route.

I waved from the van as we drew up, and hadn’t even got to the fellow’s door when it opened and the gentleman opened the door with a huge smile. “How lovely to see you!” he cried. I handed over his belongings, told him we were going to do a walk nearby. “Come and have a cup of tea when you’ve finished,” he said.

We set off with Viv musing over whether we might be fed. “Do you think he might nip down to Costcutters and get some Battenburg?” she said hopefully. “Or perhaps something else, as not everyone likes marzipan?”

“Stop thinking about food,” I said, “and get on with this walk.”

Unfortunately what looked like a good circular walk on the OS map proved to grind to a halt in a car park 45 minutes later. We consulted the map, realised we’d been walking in the opposite direction, and then asked a young couple if we could do a circular walk.

“No,” said the husband, “but you can go this way,” and gave highly detailed directions of where we could go, ending with the fatal words, “you can’t get lost.”

“Oh yes, we can,” said Viv.

We had to retrace our steps, weren’t able to do a walk for the magazine, but got back to the van having had a good laugh, the dogs had a good run and we caught up on the news. Then we went in for a cuppa which was most welcome. “Can I offer you something to eat?” the lovely gentleman said. “Biscuits? Cake? Bacon and egg pie?”

Viv’s eyes lit up at the word pie but I kicked her under the table, fearing that this was his tea for the next few nights. “No, we’ve just had sandwiches,” I said, watching Viv’s face fall. “But a biscuit would be lovely.”

“In that case, let me show you my gadget,” he said. I blinked slightly at this but it turned out to be a tap that spews out boiling water at the press of a button without having to boil a kettle. (Called a Quooler, it has a lagged tank under the sink that takes 2 weeks to cool down if you turn it off. Very impressive.)

We spent over an hour there, listening to this gentleman’s life – he was a Marine commando in Malaya when he met his wife – their first night of courting, and how he is managing now she is dead. He grew up in Truro and was telling us what it was like in the 1950s; like me, he enjoys car boots and told us about the one he goes to at Par on Thursday and Saturday mornings. In the middle of this, Deb rang to say she was allowed home and was being picked up by her daughter.

It is cheering to find that even when life is upsetting, there are unexpected pleasures. As my mum said last night, “you’re the sort of person things happen to, darling.”

In which case, what will happen next?

PS Have just sent my novel off to Legend Press so fingers crossed

Tuesday 7 February 2012


Thought for the day from my SIL, Shelagh in Vermont: "I shall live badly if I do not write, and I shall write badly if I do not live." Francoise Sagan

I love spontaneity and recently have had several evenings and days out where nothing was planned but I had a great time. Don't get me wrong, I love things to look forward to, as well.

Having had a weekend mix of planned treats - singing in Truro cathedral and a gig in Penryn - I had a spontaneous evening on Saturday which resulted in listening to great music, and a day out on Sunday all the better for not being planned.

I have another review of dog friendly accommodation coming up in Bude next weekend, which I'm looking forward to, and a week near Penzance in March. Ideally, a balance of spontaneity and planned stuff is what I would aim for. But life is never perfect, and sometimes the unplanned isn't t always what we would wish for!

In the meantime, I aim to concentrate on looking forward to the good stuff. It's easy to anticipate what might go wrong, and waste a lot of time worrying about it. We all tend to do that a bit, but I try not to, too much. As my friend John said the other day, "If you can grab a bit of happiness, go for it".

Wednesday 1 February 2012

The weekend review

The weekend was marvellous – a real break. I hadn’t quite realised how tired I was, and dear Viv did all the driving which was even better. Originally another friend was due to come but was due to be away that weekend, and as Viv had been poorly over Christmas and she rarely gets away, this worked out very well indeed.

The drive to Chagford only took an hour and a half from Truro so we arrived in time to give the dogs a run at Fingle Bridge, a beautiful riverland walk so we got to the hotel with very muddy dogs.

Luckily they have a wet room with plenty of dog towels – well, pristine white ones that Viv and I winced at using – but we managed to get the worst off the dogs in the river, then in the wet room basin, and were shown to our room which had a lovely French window opening onto a patio and huge garden overlooking the river.

We headed out to Chagford that night to the Globe for a bite to eat, which dear Paul (Viv’s partner) paid for, then took the dogs to the Ring O’Bells where they had music on. Unfortunately it was a bit loud for Titch’s tender ears (Molls is used to loud gigs by now) so we headed back to the hotel for a drink in the bar. This was rather more than we’re used to paying (white faces and jaws dropped at the price) before turning in for the night.

The next day we set off for Castle Drogo (see above picture) but it took far longer than the 30 minutes the hotel staff had advised, so we had to turn back as Mum was arriving for lunch. We went back to the Globe and sat in front of – or nearly in – a huge log fire for lunch and had a wander round Chagford which has 3 great pubs, two hardware shops that have been in the family for over 100 years and still offer a courteous service, and countless other Proper Shops.

We then went back and walked along the river the other way before finding a pub within walking distance (over the fields) and decided to go there for a meal that evening. The Sandy Park Inn – was very small but we had the biggest welcome, from the resident dogs as well as the locals, a fabulous meal and the wine was good too.

All in all we came home feeling relaxed and refreshed, and I wrote up the review on MOnday and sent it off with pictures.

I’m on the list for more reviews as of April, all being well. I’m not complaining.