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.