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.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Restaurant Review and New Eyes?

Last week I was fortunate enough to be offered a restaurant review at the Duchy Hotel in Falmouth which turned out to be the most memorable meal of my life. The chef, John Matovic, is an incredibly talented man who we met later, and each dish was a genius mix of textures, colours, flavours and tastes, each presented as a work of art. The wine was amazing too – and above is a picture looking out on the terrace as it got dark. If ever you get the chance to go and eat there – go. You won’t regret it.

Well, that was the fun part of last week. After that, I went up to see mum for the weekend which involved a lot of driving. She is a little better but has a long way to go, but at least I took her out to buy some shoes to give her more support and try and encourage her to get out a bit. But it was a hard weekend emotionally, and I didn’t sleep well.

There are several things on my mind right now, one of which is my eyes. My godmother left me enough money to have laser surgery on my eyes (I am incredibly short sighted) so last week I went to have an assessment. The outcome is that laser surgery isn’t suitable for people over 50 but lens replacement surgery (similar to cataract removal) is. Apparently I would have much better vision, not need glasses and would also not have cataracts in the future. The downside is that it’s twice the price of laser surgery.

I talked this over with my mate who gave me a lift, sent out various emails and researched online, though there’s not much information on the web. So I thought I’d go for it. I rang the surgeon (who is very well regarded in Cornwall) and he gave me two possible dates for surgery, in May and early June (they do each eye 2 weeks apart).

Then I had a phone call from a friend’s mother who has had it done though not by Mr Kumar. She had a lot of complications, then had to have laser surgery (why?) and now still has to wear glasses. One of my brothers rang to say he’d met someone else who’d had it done but still has to wear glasses. By this time I was panicking. No point in spending all that money to still need lenses. Might as well stay as I am.

So I rang Mr Kumar on Monday (he gives all patients his mobile number) and explained my concerns. “Of course,” he said. “Take as much time as you want to think about it.” And he’s going to get some of his patients to ring me and tell me their experiences.

So – any of you know anything about this? I trust Mr Kumar but it’s a hell of a lot of money and I only have one lot of eyes. Any feedback most welcome.

To soothe myself tonight I shall settle down and watch one of my favourite films – As Good As It Gets. Such a clever script and amazing acting. It always makes me laugh.

Recent developments – watch out for another blog on Friday…..

Wednesday 2 May 2012

A Magical Mystery Tour

Last week, having written an article about the 35th anniversary of the Scillonian III, I was fortunate enough to get a freebie day trip to Scilly. Many thanks to Jacob from Isles of Scilly Travel for organising it, Dave Redgrave the captain for the excellent (and correct!) weather forecast and inviting us onto the bridge, and for Marcia the Purser for escorting us.

Despite a somewhat lumpy ride (anyone who’s been on the Scillonian knows what I mean), we got there and the sun came out instantly.

We certainly made the most of our 60 seconds, as Rudyard Kipling said. After a quick coffee and bite to eat, we explored the island – or as much as we could – in glorious sunshine and took endless photos. For anyone who hasn’t been to Scilly, the islands – in the weather we saw them – are literally out of this world. Silver sandy beaches, sea an emerald green mixed with the deepest, richest blue, and these wonderful islands scattered in among the Caribbean-like waters. St Mary’s was joyously peaceful, with virtually no traffic, the only sound our laughter and the birds singing. It really did feel as if we were on holiday on paradise.

We just had time for a quick pint before getting the ferry back (we were sorely tempted to miss it) when Dave the captain invited us up on the bridge as the ferry left St Mary’s, so I could take more photos for my article.

That was really quite something and an experience we will never forget, standing up there in the spring sunshine, watching those magical islands diminish. My memories of the day are like a kaleidoscope, glistening with sun filled jewels:-

Laughing till we cried at a photo taken the previous weekend.
My white face, feeling seasick, and a gentle voice saying, “Lie down. You know it’s a good idea.” I woke up feeling much better.
The Atlantic pub with its cosy nook of maritime memorabilia.
Moll tearing along the silver beaches, ears streaming behind her with joy.
Standing on the bridge in the sunshine as we left St Mary’s, leaving a piece of our hearts behind - sad at leaving such a bewitching place; glad to have had such a joyous experience.
Fish and chips later, so hot they burnt my tongue, bringing much needed warmth and energy back.
A quiet journey home, exhausted but content.

I woke the next morning, feeling achingly sad. As you know, I’m normally a glass half full sort of person. I walked Moll through a churchyard full of the sweet spring scent of bluebells mixed with the pungent, earthy smell of wild garlic and thought how difficult it is when people you care about have to go away. Even when you know they’re coming back.

Then I received a lovely, cheering text of thanks for our day on Scilly. The sun came out and my mood lifted. Sometimes that’s all it takes to make a difference. A few carefully chosen words.

So, as an editor said to me once, “keep ‘em coming.”