Monday 23 December 2013

Losing Teeth

We saw this in Port Isaac, on the way back from a dog review weekend, and had to take a picture... which has absolutely nothing to do with this post but I thought might cheer us up on this day of storms and lashing rain...

Having been anorexic for years, I now have gum disease which was undetected for a while courtesy of a NHS dentist, which has meant having to lose some of my teeth. But I was unprepared for being quite so upset over these teeth…

A few days ago, I went to the dentist to have a tooth out. He inspected it carefully, then the one next to it, and said, very gently, that really both should come out, “though I’m not sure if you can manage that.”

I wasn’t sure whether he meant psychologically or financially, but he explained that if I didn’t have the second one out now, it would have to come out in January, by which time it could be causing me trouble. He then talked about possible dentures or implants, and as he talked I could feel the tears dribbling down my cheeks. Actually what I really wanted was a good howl, but that’s a bit tricky in front of the dentist.

He stopped, poor man, and said, “I’m really sorry to have upset you, Sue,” I was, too, but he was only doing his job, poor fellow. So I took a deep breath, had visions of toothache over Christmas and said, “OK. Take them both out.”

He tipped me back in the chair, and both he and the nurse carefully dried my tears as he injected anaesthetic, then asked if my boat was out of the water. Well, sailing is always guaranteed to cheer me up – and him, so soon the deed was done. Afterwards, I felt desperately bereft, and sobbed onto the steering wheel.

Talking to several friends later, they both pointed out that they’re always upset over losing teeth – “they’re part of us, and our life,” one said, “as well as how we look.” The other one said, “and you’re bound to be wobbly if Mr B’s just left, so it’s not surprising.”

But it got me thinking, what did these teeth represent? I’d always had Good Teeth, but gradually, over the years, they’d become loose so I couldn’t chew on that side. But I didn’t want to lose them – they’re at the back so you can’t really see them, but I was still scared. It was a long standing part of me. And let’s face it – teeth are one of the first things we notice about people.

And it made me think of how my teeth were very like a relationship that has gone wrong. Or a job that is so stressful it makes you ill (like most of us, I’ve had both). We hang onto the situation for ages, because it’s too much hassle to change it or end it, or there’s no other job out there, or we’re frightened, or it’s going to hurt too much, or we don’t want to let the other person or our colleagues down. For all those reasons and more, we sometimes hang on to situations that are doing us no favours at all.

As I left yesterday, my dentist handed me another tissue and smiled. “You’ve done the right thing, Sue,” he said. “Your mouth will soon feel much better.”

When Mr B rang to ask how I was, I said, “I feel as if my jaw’s been attacked with a crowbar,” but the next day, although I felt sore, exhausted and weepy, and there was a huge hole in my mouth, I had a sense of relief. I was going through all those wretched grief feelings, but like ending that toxic relationship or chucking in the job that’s making you ill, I know I am better off without those teeth.

So this Christmas/New Year, I am going to have a good think about the rest of my life. What am I not happy with? What changes do I need to make, and how could I do that?

Wishing you all a happy Christmas. And if you aren’t where you wish to be, let’s hope you are next year.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

A visit to a superyacht

On Saturday Mr B and I had an early Christmas present – a visit to M5, one of the world’s biggest superyachts, and the one with the tallest mast in the world (see picture).

She’s been sitting in Falmouth Docks for several months now, having a refit with Pendennis Shipyard, and every time I look out of the window, I see her 89 metre mast towering over the docks.

We’d had a few trips in Echo to visit her – she’s 75.2 metres long and is incredibly sleek, majestic and utterly beautiful. But the thought of actually stepping on board was another thing altogether.

So on Saturday we headed down to the docks and met the captain on board. He showed us around, introducing us to “the second largest furler in the world”. So which is the biggest, we asked? He laughed and pointed to the bow. “There!”

When he asked us where we kept the sails on our boat, we didn’t like to say that Piran is a 12 foot fibreglass dinghy so we keep the sails on the mast. Instead we looked down into this huge room below decks that was purely for M5’s sails.

The engine room was also jaw dropping – could have been the size of Apollo’s – with the most amazing technology involved, and the bridge was also out of this world. This superyacht cost US$ 50 million to build, and the refit must be adding another few million to the bill.

It was an unforgettable privilege to go on board her, and I intend to be waving her off when she finally leaves. As Mr B said, this reflects another level of wealth. One that we couldn’t begin to comprehend.

So he bought me some chips on the way back.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Jill Murphy and the Worst Witch

Apologies for silence – I've had a stinking cold which is lingering, and life has been busier than usual. Last week saw me heading up to North Cornwall to interview the lovely Jill Murphy, author of the fabulous Worst Witch series – and she’s just written a seventh book entitled The Worst Witch and the Wishing Star.

I interviewed Jill three years ago when she had two deerhounds and had just written a book entitled Dear Hound as well as another of her wonderful picture books. This time she was talking about writing a series for children and, sadly, both of her dogs were no more. The last one broke her leg and had to be put down two weeks ago so Jill was less than her normal exuberant self.

But she is the most generous of hostesses and made me coffee while we admired her cats. Then she asked if I’d like to get Moll from the van. Moll of course was in like a flash, and spent the next few hours sitting happily on Jill’s lap. A good bit of canine therapy for Jill and a nice bit of spoiling for Moll.

She then made me lunch and even suggested Mol could lick my plate afterwards (there’s a real dog lover for you). And we sat by the fire growing far too comfortable until I had to heave myself off the sofa and head for a walk before home.

Not having children, I’d missed Jill’s books but they are a real delight with the most wonderful illustrations that only she could do. Her books are full of warmth, fun and humour and would make the most wonderful present for any child – or adult for that matter. Go and check her out. You won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Weather forecasting and update

We saw this above weather forecasting tool in Port Isaac a few weekends ago. Would save the government millions, doubtless.....

The singing weekend at Prussia Cove was great, if exhausting, and didnt get off to a good start when I had to swerve to avoid a stroppy driver outside Mr B's house and dented another bloke's bumper. Just waiting to hear what the damage on that one is. Second, my friend Joe was feeding Bussie and I gota phone call on Saturday morning to say that I'd left the key inside the french doors so Joe couldn't get his key in. Dear fellow, he went down to Tesco to get some cat food and left a plate outside which His Lordship scoffed and didn't seem unduly put out. And lastly, as troubles come in threes, the toilet in the house we were staying in broke. 7 people and no toilet is not a good idea but thankfully it was fixed by Saturday evening.

But we had some great singing, some good food and a good time was had by all. I was so tired by the time I came back that I crashed. And from then on it's been all go with another author interview - Rupert Wallis, whose debut novel comes out in January.

Then Alan (of 'Snap' fame) arrives tonight for a few days so it will be lovely to see him again and take him out in Echo - weather permitting.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

A musical post

This is Moll taken last weekend when we reviewed the lovely Helsbury Park near Camelford. Not that she's a poser or anything....

This time last year three of us formed a breakaway group from our choir which we ended up calling the Hipflasks. Since then we’ve rehearsed on many an afternoon and evening, and forged a close bond between the three of us. Good friends are so valuable but good ones that sing must be even better.

Once a year Paul organises a singing weekend at Prussia Cove, where the International Music Festival, and other musical events, take place. It’s a big rambling house that can sleep 25 people and the surrounding cottages absorb the rest of us – last year there were 65 of us who gather to share food, wine, dogs and music for the weekend. We have four workshops which are always a joy to attend, we meet new people and always have a fabulous – if exhausting – time.

I'm off on Friday - six of us are sharing the Lodge as we did last year and all really looking forward to it. As we sang in a round last week, “Make new friends and cherish the old. Some are silver and some are gold.”

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Second time lucky

Further to my last post, it turned out that Andrew did leave Pendennis last Monday 4th November but because the weather forecast was bad, he picked up a mooring near the Greenbank hotel.

I got an email from his wife to say he was hoping to leave around midday on Monday 11th, so at 11.45 I legged it down to Greenbank pier with my camera. No sign of the sail covers being removed, so I hung around for a while, had a text from Alyson, his wife, and then thought I’d nip up and borrow Mr B’s telescope.

We watched out of his window for a while then I thought I’d better go home as I could just see the sail covers from my front window. Nearly two hours later, I looked out of the window – and the mainsail was being hoisted! I texted Mr B and ran down the hill once more with camera. Got to Greenbank Gardens and saw Andrew on board, making final preparations. I sent another text to Mr B saying, “We are watching history in the making.”

Then the jib was hoisted, and Elsi Arrub sped forwards. I was so excited, and so emotional by this time, clicking away at pictures as fast as I could, wishing we’d had some notice so we could have gone out in Echo to take better pictures and given him a good send off.

As it was, I jumped up and down and waved, shouting, “Good luck Andrew!”. He looked over, saw me and waved back. And then he was off, tacking towards the docks, and just then the sun came out and lit the sails like a blessing.

Andrew’s wife rang then so I told her he was off with a good enough wind to set him on his way (he has no engine so wind is crucial!) and headed back up to see Mr B. “I was emotional too,” he said, “and I haven’t even met the guy. That’s some undertaking.”

Andrew’s hoping to return to Falmouth next December and I’m determined to get out on the water to take some great pictures of his triumphant return.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Leaving Falmouth

The internet is a strange and wonderful thing. Through one of my sisters-in-law, Shelagh, who lives in Vermont, who is something of a Facebook Fiend, I discovered that Andrew Halcrow, a yachtsman from the Shetland was coming to Falmouth in October to prepare for his second attempt at a solo (non-stop?) circumnavigation of the globe. Are you still with me? The Facebook page had been set up by someone who isn’t known to Andrew, his wife or family. Not just that, but the page has acquired more and more followers by the day.

However, Shelagh found out contact details for me (I was away at the time, not being lazy), so I was able to interview Andrew and his wife just before Andrew left Falmouth on November 4th.

Andrew’s first attempt at sailing round the world single handedly was interrupted in 2006 when his appendix burst. He was taken by container ship to hospital in Australia and had to leave his beloved boat, the Elsi Arrub, adrift some 300 miles off Australia. Months later, when he was back in Shetland, he had a phone call to say that the yacht had been found afloat.

You can imagine his joy, as he built this boat 26 years ago and she is now part of the family. “I know her inside and out,” he said fondly. After a good scrub up and hose down, repairs made, “she looked all dressed up and ready to go,” so his wife suggested he should have another go at sailing round the world.

And on Monday 4th November he slipped out of Falmouth. It was overcast with little wind at that point, but I wish him all the very best. You can too, for the website will be up and running soon – - and read about it in January's Cornwall Today.

Monday 28 October 2013

Away again....

The above photo was actually taken at Coverack but I didn't take any at Shaldon as it rained a lot. Still,it didn't spoil our enjoyment, and thank god for waterproof trousers.

I went and saw my mum last week which was lovely, then stayed in Shaldon with my dear friend Av, and although it was only a brief time together, I came away feeling more refreshed and positive than I have done for several weeks. We’ve known each other for about 20 years (Av, you’ll put me right on exactly when we met!) and seen each other through various heartaches, falling in and out of love, death and disasters. So we know each other pretty well by now.

We’ve also been on holiday a lot – just because you’re good friends doesn’t necessarily mean you get on well when you go away. But we always laugh, cry, talk, walk and generally have a great time. So does Moll, who adores Av.

So I came away feeling much better about life. On Friday I managed to send my next walks book off to the publishers - ahead of deadline – and, urged by Av, also sent off a collection of poems to a competition. I’ve put my growing anthology of pomes into a book which Mr B says he will illustrate. Av read them and said I must find a publisher. (And she doesn’t say that kind of thing lightly.) Not an easy thing to do, but I love writing them so that bit isn’t a hardship.

This is written on Monday, for a change, and as my youngest brother and his family are coming over for a meal, I am cooking vast amounts of food to feed the Kittow Hordes. I haven’t seen them for a year, so it will lovely to catch up with them.

Later on this week, I’m off to Budock Vean ( a Very Smart Hotel) to review their dog friendly accommodation. The irony of this is that we went there on Mr B’s birthday intending to have a drink there. We turned up straight from the beach and were told we couldn’t have a drink unless we ate there, so we departed. Several weeks later I had a phone call asking if I’d like to review the place….

They even have a dress code for dinner (Smart for ladies, jacket and tie for men), which isn’t something I’ve ever come across before. Excuse me while I dash down to the charity shops to find something to wear……

Saturday 19 October 2013

Just checking in

I had a few days in Coverack which was a lovely break, and I do love it there. Last year we stayed in flat in an old converted hotel on a headland about 20 minutes from the village, and I love the sense of space and wildness and the sheer, raw elements of nature at its most beautiful.

A couple of friends came over to see me which was lovely but without a certain person it really wasn't the same. So I came back to sort myself out before going up to Devon tomorrow for a few days and see my mum then my dear friend Av and I are going to have a couple of nights in a B&B nearby - we visited there in the summer and it was lovely. Actually the forecast is terrible, but it will just be good to have a few days with one of my oldest and dearest friends.

We'll be near the sea, too, so if I can't actually get on it, at least I can be near boats, and very much look forward to Mr B's return so we can get on the water again.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

A Last Sail and another farewell

Over the past few days – since last Friday - I’ve been lucky enough to have three wonderful sails with Alan on Snap. On the Sunday we had a fabulous time with my friend Michael and sailed right out to Gull Rock and back – about 15 miles. It was wonderful to sail with someone as experienced as Michael, as well as Al, though it did make me realise how woefully inexperienced I am, and being me I get frustrated at not knowing stuff. Still it was a beautiful day and the sun shone and the wind was kind and Snap loved it.

On Monday Al and I had our last sail. I suddenly started to be incredibly cack handed and forgot to do things that I know perfectly well and then got cross with myself, till Al said, “perhaps it’s because you’re a bit emotional,” and of course he was right. I was so gulpy I couldn’t speak for about half an hour.

Like any Last Times, the three or four hours we spent out were so poignantly beautiful it made me ache. Snap took us round the docks to show her off – which was where I took the above picture, as we sailed into the sun towards Falmouth Docks - then we headed out to sea where the waves sparkled and the wind was perfect and we just wanted to keep going.

We surfed back with the spinnaker up most of the way, but used it like a second genoa, so it blew out to the side like a balloon as we sped along. Snap makes a wonderful rushing noise when she sails like that, and you can almost hear her joy as she surfs the waves. Ours, too. All too soon we were back on the pontoon, to take the sails off, a job that we did in near silence.

And that was Snap’s last sail of the year. She’s going back to Derby for the winter, so it’ll be May before she and Al come back and I will sorely miss them both. But we’ve had the most special times and for that I am everlastingly grateful.

Last night I had dinner with Al and Anne, which was incredibly kind of them – we had the most fabulous meal and it was a fitting end to a great summer’s sailing. Today, after 3 hours sleep, I went down to meet Al at Mylor when Snap was lifted out of the water. Having said I’d cheer him up as she was lifted out, of course I was absolutely of no use at all and stood there with tears pouring down my face as she was craned out, onto her trolley, to begin the long trip back to Derby for the winter.

After another hug goodbye, I ran down the pontoon, howled my eyes out on Echo for a bit, then blew my nose, gave Moll a cuddle and headed back to do some work. Hopefully Mr B will be back soon and we can get on the water again soon, for I do feel bereft without it.

I’m off to the Lizard next week for a few days, possibly longer, for a much needed break. See you all soon.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Was it a dream?

To remind myself that no, I wasn't dreaming, this was a picture I took sailing on Snap in August.

For the last week, Falmouth has been enveloped in a fog as thick as a bag. Some days it’s rained, others the south easterly wind has been relentless. The summer seems like a kaleidoscope of sunlit days, full of sailing, adventuring and fun that have abruptly come to an end.

Sitting here looking out of the window, I wonder if I dreamt it all, for no one’s been out sailing recently. Mr B’s away, Al’s back in Derby and all the boats are tucked up. I bailed out Echo yesterday, looking at the ever increasingly empty moorings that tugged at my heart. I remembered our last outing, only last week. Perhaps because we had such a good summer, packing in so many wonderful experiences, the end of it seems harder to take.

But, oh, what memories I have to take out and savour. The exhilaration of racing in Falmouth Week and drinks with the very lovely bunch of people we met. Helming on Gipsy Moth, followed by champagne and pasties. Scampering down through the fields for a swim, Moll barking alongside. One particular adventure in Piran, with rip tides though Mr B saved the day. Those are just a few….

But yesterday I walked over crunchy leaves that are turning golden. Only last week Mr B and I picked blackberries, sharing them with Moll (it seems like months ago). There are plenty left, and I find blackberry picking very soothing. The crumble I made on Sunday was polished off between friends pretty quickly, too.

I’ve been reading James Wharram’s book Two Girls Two Catamarans – he was the first person to cross the North Atlantic voyages in a catamaran (that he’d built) with his two girlfriends, one of whom (aged 18) gave birth half way round…. Fascinating reading that has given me severe wanderlust.

But thankfully, Alan returns tomorrow, and as the weather forecast is good for the weekend, my spirits are rising. We’re both desperate to get some sailing in before Snap is lifted out of the water and he tows her back to Derby on Wednesday. When, as he said, we’ll both be crying…

Lastly, I had an email yesterday to say that one of my poems, Tuesday Evenings, is being published in a collection entitled 'The Dance is Now' which is to be published this week as an ebook on Amazon on Thursday 3rd October, which is National Poetry Day. Well!

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Savouring the Good Things in Life

This picture was actually taken two years ago at Lanyon Quoit. I want to go back to Zennor to find the quoit there, and as we didn’t have time to go, it’s a reminder of our next trip. Or one of them.

Last week, we looked at the weather forecast for the weekend and planned a few days of boating in supposedly glorious weather. We haven’t been out in Piran for about a month, and I’m itching for a sail.

But on Thursday I went down with a particularly vile tummy bug, followed the next day by Mr B. As someone who a) has a cast iron stomach and b) needs to eat every 3 hours, not being able to eat is something of anathema to me. I was stuck in bed, only venturing out to walk Moll then fell back again. Luckily I felt so ill the prospect of sailing was a distant vision – I wasn’t well enough to miss it.

The upside is that I got a huge amount of sleep and also had the chance to read two books. Good books. Debbie Moggach’s Heartbreak Hotel – a joyous celebration of falling in love at all ages, into our 70s – and I’ve just finished Maggie O’Farrell’s Instructions on a Heatwave that was also beautifully written.

It struck me last night, as I said to Mr B, that I tend to read as I eat. Too fast. I gobble words down without really tasting them. I devour books at such speed, turning the pages faster and faster, then all too soon the book’s over. Done.

Last night we were both starving, and tried to eat our meal slowly. Our stomachs weren’t used to eating a proper meal, having had days of being unable to eat much. Then I realised the parallel with reading.

“When I’m reading a really good book it makes me slow down,” I said to him. “I need to taste the words instead of swallowing them whole. I need to savour them, like this mushroom here.” I bit into the mushroom and the rich, dense juiciness of it hit my tongue.

That’s what a good book should be like. Like a new walk we discovered yesterday, near a forgotten plantation. Something to savour, and remember for later.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

A Diamond Sea

I've got tendonitis in my shoulder so have been told to Take It Easy (and not work more than I have to) so this is a v short post today.

This picture of is a sparkling sea - well, the Carrick Roads, to be precise - on a sunny Saturday morning when Mr B and I went out on Snap with Alan. We sailed round to Gerrans Bay where the wind picked up and we had an incredible, memorable day.

(In case you're wondering, Moll went to Sheila and had a lovely day shovelling manure onto her allotment. Or rather, Moll had a lovely day. Sheila was shattered by the end of it.)

Thanks Al, thanks to Snap, and thanks to Sheila for all the dog sitting while we go sailing.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

My girl

My Moll, after a hair cut. Need I say more?

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Follow Your Dream

Me on the helm of Gipsy Moth IV.

Last Thursday dawned grey but mild and I dropped off Moll at Sheila’s, then Mr B and I walked through Falmouth to the marina by the Maritime Museum. There we made our way down to the pontoon and stood, looking at possibly the most famous boat (of her size) in the world.

Sir Francis Chichester commissioned Gipsy Moth IV so he could sail single handed around the world, against the times set by the clipper ships of the 19th century.

Since then the boat spent nearly 40 years in concrete in Greenwich next to the Cutty Sark, before being bought by a couple desperate to stop her going to America. Now she is owned by the UKSA Trust who aim to help both able and disabled people to gain confidence and acquire skills that could lead to further employment.

With such a wealth of history behind her, she carries a lot of baggage, but 6 of us assembled that morning and clambered on board: all with a love of the sea and sailing. I now get to the point where I have physical withdrawal symptoms if I don’t sail – I get a tugging in my stomach like you do when you experience loss on a grand scale. I get short tempered and tired. I really am an addict in need of a fix.

I was having bad withdrawal symptoms that morning, which was one of the most magical times I’ve spent in a long while. The boat is kindly and, compared to other boats I’ve sailed, much easier. Hoisting the mainsail was like pulling a curtain cord. Chichester is reputed to have kicked her when he finally made it ashore in Plymouth – how could he have?

By the end of the morning we were all good friends. We’d shared experiences, taken endless photographs and were treated to pasties and champagne by Charlie Choak. Most important of all, we’d shared a morning sailing over to Helford on this lovely lady who just took us there, ably and without fuss. I defy anyone not to feel how special she is. I felt incredibly humbled afterwards, and privileged.

Talking to Emily, the First Mate and herself a qualified skipper, she told me that she turned down a better job in marketing to pursue a career as a professional sailor. She was unsure whether it was the right move, and only had 24 hours to make up her mind but an old boss of hers said, “Follow your dream, Emily.”

She did so and has been having an amazing time as a freelance sailor ever since. This is her second year working on Gipsy Moth IV and I can only hope that the boat and Emily continue to inspire future generations to follow their dreams.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Gipsy Moth IV

Last week I was fortunate enough to meet the owner of Gipsy Moth IV, the yacht that Sir Francis Chichester sailed single handed round the world in 1966/7. He apparently had no attachment to the boat and declared he was glad to be rid of her after his voyage, so the poor girl stayed in Greenwich, alongside the Cutty Sark, for nearly 40 years before she was saved from rotting by a campaign led by Yachting Monthly.

She was advertised for sale on the front of the Sunday Times in September 2010 and saved from being sent abroad, meaning that she will stay in this country and sailed in British waters, as a reminder of the incredible challenges that Chichester overcame, and an inspiration to generations past and present.

It was a fascinating interview (and a very good lunch, too) and of course Moll came with me – as chaperone. Pip was one of many inspired by Chichester’s voyage – he was 64 when he set off from Plymouth – which serves as a good reminder to us all that It’s Never Too Late, if that’s what you want to do.

Not that I want to sail round the world, but we are going out for a sail on Gipsy Moth IV tomorrow and I will write about it in my next column. Can’t wait!

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Thrown in at the deep end

When Alan (see above, the owner of Snap, the beautiful Dragon classic boat), asked if Mr B and I would crew for him in Falmouth (Regatta) Week, I said Yes! with absolutely no idea of what I was letting myself in for.

Mr B has considerable experience in the past, but my experience comes from dinghy sailing over 40 years ago and a bit of sailing with Pip which didn’t amount to much because, as soon as we moved in together, he proceeded to rip the boat apart to refurbish her.

So basically I turned up for the first day of racing (luckily Mr B was crewing that day) with no idea what to expect. I left, shaken and trembling. I'd thrown myself into a largely male environment of very experienced sailors (our helmsman, Keith, has sailed the Fastnet Race several times). And of course I was going to be expected to keep up.

Looking back, it was incredibly generous of them to let me have a go at all. I was so terrified I couldn’t eat or sleep, just wondered what the hell I had let myself in for and I was terrified of letting them down. Mr B gave me a lot of practical advice gleaned from his first day, but my stomach still lurches thinking about that first trip. So, I was sailing on a strange boat with strange men, having no experience. Everyone else knew their boats, their crew and the stretch of river where we were sailing – ie. where all the buoys are.

To explain briefly a little of what’s involved in racing: you sail out to where the race boat is and about half an hour before the race is due to begin, the course is hung over the edge of the boat. You have to make a note of all the buoys then chart the course, including finding the start line. This is a lot harder than it sounds, as all the other boats are thrashing around the race boat trying to do the same thing, and it’s not easy to read the course when you’re flying past at speed. Also, when you don’t know which buoy is which and where, it’s not easy to chart the course. All of this is done at high speed and under pressure, as the skipper needs to know where to be for the start, which is usually in about 5minutes. So, no pressure then.

From then on, apart from the physical sailing – ie, tacking and gybing, balancing the boat out (sitting right out on the side when we heeled over), tightening the backstays when we tacked etc., it’s vital to keep an eagle eye out for other boats to avoid collisions, have the next buoy in mind so you know where exactly where we’re going and can tell the skipper, and checking the sails. Well, that’s just some of what’s involved as crew.

But on the second day, I began to get the hang of it. I thought, OK I’ve got SO much to learn, but I love this. I love reacting really quickly, I like being treated as an honorary bloke and I don’t mind being shouted at because in racing it’s essential that everyone moves and reacts really quickly.

We came second that day (first the day before, but that was before the handicaps are taken into account), and I was so relieved that I hadn’t let the others down, I nearly burst into tears. I am very fortunate in sailing with Alan, the owner, who, along with his wife have become very good friends, and Keith, who taught me so much in two short days. When I gave him a hug he grinned broadly and said, “Sue, it was a privilege.” Which nearly made me cry all over again.

So last week was an emotional and physical rollercoaster. I am covered in bruises from being thrown about the boat when it was very windy but I don’t care (though several people thought Mr B had been whacking me. He hasn’t.) I got us all t shirts with SNAP written on the front, and Alan was so delighted he hasn't taken his off since.... The men had several races and Bonded well so the plan is to do it all again next August, by which time I am determined to be a much better sailor.

And, of course, to keep on writing about it.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Half hour of fame

Last Thursday was a Bit Of A Day, as they say. In the morning I had a meeting about being sailing correspondent for Cornwall Today, and we planned the first six months to include a monthly column and a piece on boats, mostly by me but some are in the bag. That was very exciting and we’re both really looking forward to it.

I left there feeling drained, to various texts of encouragement, and shot home, ate vast amounts of food and had a lie down. Luckily the Radio Cornwall presenter was delayed as she was filming elsewhere, so I had a bit of time to collect myself and Moll and drove off to Carn Marth.

There I discovered that the representatives from the Carn Marth Trust were all friends from another of Claire’s choirs, and Miranda, who I’d been emailing, was a member of a barbershop choir that we both sang in years ago. And we all had dogs – in fact we ended up with Millie, Mollie and Miranda.

I really enjoyed the broadcast, though there were a couple of moments when I knew Mr B would be creasing himself. The first was when I was asked what the trig point was for. Now, I knew Mr B had told me something about this some time ago but could I remember it? I couldn’t really ask to dial a friend, 771 feet above sea level, with a microphone thrust in my face, so I muttered something about it being to do with measurements for OS maps. (Where are men when you need them, eh?)
Alan said I sounded very knowledgeable but I think he was probably being kind.

The next one was when I had to describe the view. Mr B well knows that I have no sense of direction. We were walking Moll on the cliffs at Bude once when I pointed to the cliffs in front of us. “Where’s that?” I said. “Is it Plymouth?”
He turned to me in astonishment. “PLYMOUTH?” he cried. “That’s on the opposite coast, and miles away.” We looked at each other, then started laughing till the tears ran down our faces. Since then Plymouth has become a byword….

So when I had to describe the view from the top of Carn Marth, I waved my arms around (as he knows well) and said arily, “Well, Falmouth’s over there,” (big sweep), “and “Bodmin Moor’s sort of over there,” (another sweep), “and Carn Brae’s over there!” (triumphantly, as I could actually see Carn Brae.)

So that was my half hour of fame which I thoroughly enjoyed. Shame about the sense of direction, but you can’t have everything in life.

Oh, and I heard I've been shortlisted for a worldwide poetry competition. MY!!!

Next week is Falmouth Regatta Week which means crewing in races. I am excited and terrified in equal measures.

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Sailing correspondent

This is the lovely Snap (dragon) boat, the subject of my deep devotion...

How life moves in mysterious ways. As from last Thursday, I am now sailing correspondent for Cornwall Today. How about that?! We’re launching the sailing page with an interview I did with a fascinating man who helped Mylor Yacht Harbour become successful.

It was a really interesting interview – also because he reminded me of my little brother in his enthusiasm and manner of speech. Yet he is called Jonathan, the name of my late husband and older brother. So, it was like interviewing my two brothers and Pip rolled into one. Whereas I usually find I can keep up with most people, this man has incredible drive, enthusiasm and stamina. Get the September issue of Cornwall Today and you’ll see what I mean.

So that’s very exciting. Mr B is convinced that the turnaround in my fortunes is due to his absence, but even I couldn’t contrive that one. (Or could I?) It’s odd how in life you can throw as much as you can out there and nothing happens, and just when you’re about to give up, things start happening.

I had a great test sail with Alan in his lovely Dragon, Snap, on Saturday, though I was more than a little unnerved when, just as we left the pontoon, he said, “I’m not happy with the mainsail. Can you steer, Sue?”

Now, getting out of Mylor Harbour is like weaving through an assault course, there are so many boats moored up. I thought, what is he DOING asking me to steer out of HERE? Where is Mr B when I need him? Why is he putting me in charge of this beautiful, valuable, classic boat? But I squeaked, “OK.” And for the next ten minutes I concentrated so hard I nearly went cross eyed.

But I got out! And I didn’t hit anything! I was so overcome that we sailed over to the opposite shore and I gybed instead of tacked (went in the opposite direction to the one I should have), but luckily that didn’t matter. Mind you, it didn’t half throw me. Just when I thought I was doing so well…

Luckily it didn’t seem to throw Alan who was very stressed after a horrible two weeks’ work. I told him a sail would do him good, and it seemed to – even with me at the helm. I did suggest he should take over but he refused. Said he was having a lovely relaxing time. Though I’m glad to say he did bring us in. That was the REALLY tricky bit.

And before I go, I must remind you all to tune in to BBC Radio Cornwall (103.9, 95.2 and 96 FM, DAB) on Thursday at 3pm. For those of you who don’t live in Cornwall, you can listen online and I think there’s a play again facility.

I’m going to be interviewed about a place called Carn Marth and will take Tiffany (the presenter) on a walk there in the morning. I can at least publicise the current walks book and give the next one a plug.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

An upturn

This was me at the helm, one sunlit evening not so long ago. Happy sigh...

I have been reprimanded. “Your last few blogs have been sad,” said Mr B. “I was sad,” I pointed out - about work. But as there has been an about turn on that front, I promised to write a happy post. The good news is that I’m to start writing about sailing as of next year which is very exciting and I am really looking forward to. So all this sailing is actually work, and of course being a dedicated journalist, I have to do as much research and preparation as possible.

I had a wonderful day out sailing with my dear friend Michael in his catamaran Doublet last week – a much bigger boat than anything I’ve ever sailed before. So many sails! So many sheets! (ropes). So many instruments! (GPS, Echo sounder etc etc). Two hulls instead of one! (You can sail closer to the wind in a mono hull.) A galley – with plates, a cooker, kettle and stuff. Heads! (a toilet). A wheel! (instead of a tiller). I found helming on a wheel much more difficult. A dinghy – and dragons – are so responsive, with a tiller, that they are completely different to sail. I was quite overwhelmed by such mod cons.

So it was all a very steep learning curve and I felt woefully aware of my ignorance. But you’ve got so start somewhere, and here’s a good place to start, with some excellent tutors: I am extremely fortunate in having several men who are all helping to provide my sailing education.

Last Monday, as Mr B is away, my mate John took me out in our dinghy. The heatwave is over, and there wasn’t much wind, so John had to paddle out a bit, but then the wind got up and we started flying over the waves. There’s such a wonderful sense of space and freedom on the water – and I am very fond of our little boat. She may be a fibre glass tub, but she can certainly move when she wants to, and she looks after us very well.

I had been invited out on Doublet again on Tuesday, but couldn’t find anyone to look after Moll. But Alan, who owns the gorgeous dragon, is returning at the end of this week, and has invited me for another test sail, and I hope to go out in the dinghy again soon. I had figured that if I could get just one sail a week, I would keep my sailing addiction to a manageable level. But having enjoyed it so much last night, I just want to go out again. So I guess I'm hopelessly addicted.

Oh, and another bit of good news (happy, Mr B?) is that I’m to take part in a programme on Thursday 1st August on BBC Radio Cornwall to do with my walks book. It will be in the afternoon – more information when I have it.

So work (and I can now count sailing as that) is looking up. I just need my sailing/adventuring partner back, and all will be well. We can then hang out the bunting.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting here surrounded by the joyous smell of sweet peas - a very lovely present.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

In love with a dragon

This was taken on a sunlit evening at Mylor Creek about a month ago having had a drink at the Pandora, and dropped some friends off at Mylor Quay.

Work has recently taken a nosedive – apart from finishing my walks book – which has been a real blow to my confidence. Having written walks for over 5 years, it’s a real shock not to be doing them any more, and the walks have also become part of my identity. I feel rather as if someone has set me loose in an unknown boat and said, “Off you go,” when I don’t know where I’m going, nor do I have a great deal of confidence in how to handle a strange boat.

But my life has ever been thus – just when I think I’m going along a well beaten track, someone pulls the rug from under my feet and I fall flat on my face.

But in this case, I am sailing as much as possible and learning as much as I can about it all, absorbing it like a sponge. I had a terrific day out last week crewing on a Dragon boat which was amazing.

I was so nervous to start with - we didn’t know the owner at all, and I could feel adrenaline rushing round my veins for several hours. You know, that kind of stomach in a rushing lift feeling? And my legs shook as I concentrated so hard I thought I might fall over. I was so nervous I refused to take the helm at first, then after a few hours thought, no I will have a go.

And once I’d taken the helm I was in love. She is the most incredible boat to sail – she just wants to take off, and as soon as I had that tiller in my hand, all my nerves disappeared and she flew through the water like a dream. We had a drink afterwards, all got on so well and were asked if we’d like to crew again. Even better, the owner’s asked for crew for Falmouth Regatta Week.

I was in a state of shock and awe the next day. It had been so magical, I felt as if I’d dreamt it. And sailing with people you really get on well with is something very special.

So while work might have a lot of question marks over it at the moment, it seems that life is saying, “Go sailing!”

So I am. And loving it.

Monday 8 July 2013

More Downs and Ups

Life has been very quiet on the work front recently which has been a real blow. I’m still waiting news from a meeting a month ago but the life of a freelance is ever thus, unfortunately.

On the brighter side, although there’s no money coming in, I’ve had a few days in Shaldon with my dear friend Av at Potters Mooring B&B which I would thoroughly recommend. Such a friendly place with excellent food, and a wonderful place to revisit, as I’d gained my sailing legs on the Shaldon to Teignmouth ferry at the age of 18 months. I was a very bad sleeper which meant my poor mum didn’t get much sleep either, so the ferryman allegedly said, “Give Curly to me,” so mum could get some kip for the day and I had a brilliant time going backwards and forwards on the ferry. Nowadays, of course, he would have been arrested and I would have been taken into care, but that just shows what the nanny state does for you.

Then last week I went to review Northcote Manor Farm near Barnstaple and, despite rain on the Tuesday, and covering a fair few miles, we felt really rested afterwards. It’s good to go somewhere different, even if only for a few days. Moll wasn’t quite so keen – I think she felt that two trips away in as many weeks were a bit much so she was very glad to get home.

We’ve been out in the boat(s) recently and had a few adventures. Friday evening’s trip took rather longer than anticipated, and ending up beating back and forth for four hours as night fell. The main concern, other than getting back to shore, was would the pub be open? Thankfully it was…. And through a chance meeting in Mylor the other day, there’s the possibility of crewing on a Dragon yacht: a prospect that terrifies and excites me in equal measures.

On Saturday Paul’s having another of his parties which I will be singing at, and we’ve got a gig on Sunday at Carn Marth. So much for my quiet life….

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Maiden voyage

No, this wasn't us, but taken at a regatta the other weekend.

A quick post today with mixed news. OK, I’ll start with the bad news which is that I have an acute flare up of a gum disease which will mean lengthy and costly sessions with the hygienist.

But the good news is that we launched the boat yesterday, having found a farm to keep it at for much lower rent than anywhere else. He’s also a contributor to Cornwall Today, which keeps it in the family!

So we launched the boat on Weir Beach and sailed over to St Just, taking Moll with us. She’s not that mad keen on going out in the motor boat but seemed to enjoy this, standing with her paws on the deck and ears streaming behind her.

I had had a stressful few days and was exhausted and wobbly. But we got out on the water and I could feel all those troubles drifting away. There was just us, the rush of the water as we sailed along, the wind in our faces and a solitary heron watching us from the shore.

It was quite magic. And as the forecast is rubbish for the next few days, and it’s lovely this afternoon, guess what we’re doing?!

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Liebster award

Many thanks to Debs Debs for this Liebster award.

The rules of the Liebster Award are:
• Thank your Liebster Blog Award nominator on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you;
• Answer the eleven questions from the nominator;
• List eleven random facts about yourself:
• Present the Liebster Blog Award to up to eleven other blogs that you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen;
• Pass on the eleven questions to your nominees, or create new ones;
• Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.

1. What’s your favourite novel and what do you love about it.
Too many to mention but The Vacillations of Poppy Carew has to be one of my favourties. I love Mary Wesley’s ability to create wacky, believable, funny and empathetic characters and amazing plots.

2. Do you have any pet peeves in fiction? Head-hopping in the same scene.

3. What are you most proud of?
My writing so far. More I hope!

4. Your most and least favourite people in history? Likes: Joan of Arc
Dislikes: Hitler

5. The country, city or other place you’d most like to visit? New Zealand, China, Greece

6. Which five people would you like to meet (dead, alive, or fictional)?
Dorothy Parker
Winston Churchill
Mary Wesley
Christopher Hitchens
Fonteyn and Nureyev

7. What makes you laugh the most?
Random things, usually Mr B imitating me.

8. If you could know the future, what would you wish for?
Love and happiness, that my writing career may continue

9. If you won the lottery and could donate money to charity, which charity would you choose – and why?
RNLI – I was married to a sailor and have become one myself

10. Do you suffer from any little phobias or superstitions? Not keen on spiders

11. What’s your favourite guilty pleasure?
A good massage

Eleven random facts about me…
1. I’ve just started writing poetry
2. I tend to fall in love with men who love boats
3. I have a black and white cat and dog
4. I’m a late starter
5. I have very good focus, apparently – needed when sailing
6. We’ve just bought a dinghy
7. The RYA course I’ve just done was the hardest thing Ive done since school.
8. I don’t have children, a fact that used to give me much pain. As I grow older I think perhaps it’s a good thing.
9. I cry very easily.
10. Mollie is named after my Irish cousin Mollie.
11. I can’t imagine not living by the sea now.

I nominate the following bloggers, but please feel free not to take this up:
Chris H

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Another rollercoaster

As ever with my life, the last week has been another rollercoaster. First of all I’ve had some bad news on the work front which was very upsetting. More on that when I get confirmation of what’s happening. Also, Richard and Judy, who I'd been hoping to interview in April for my next walks book, now are too busy. Darn....

But the good thing was that we had the days owing to us from our sailing course last weekend which has been amazing. It’s over 40 years since I last sailed a dinghy so to say I am rusty is somewhat of an understatement. The nautical terms also cause my brain to atrophy – I seem to have not only forgotten them but have great difficulty in assimilating them – Close Haul – Beam Reach (no, I know that one) – but actually doing them has made understanding them much easier.

On Saturday we sailed in very strong winds – we were the only dinghy out there, and for beginners it was a real baptism of fire. I was worried about letting Mr B down but I didn’t and our instructor thought we did really well. I’d forgotten that incredible buzz I get from sailing – it really is incredibly addictive when you heel over, feeling the sheer power of the boat under you, knowing that you’re harnessing the wind to make it work for you. Very heady stuff.

On Sunday we had hardly any wind at all to begin with, meaning that we now know we can sail in all weathers. It was less tiring but we learnt just as much, doing different manoeuvres, and being warm was a bonus. In the afternoon we sailed among the classic boats out near Black Rock in the harbour which was a truly wonderful sight, and we felt incredibly proud to be there.

As we walked home on Saturday, Mr B said, “I expect you’ll write all this down now,” but I shook my head. “I feel too full of it all,” I said. For once words couldn’t describe how I felt. I felt very emotional – as if I’d been pumped up with something similar to laughing gas but more intense. I also felt bruised, battered and bewildered from braving high winds in a small boat, but a steady sense of achievement at what we’d done.

I will try and clear my head and articulate my feelings better. But I think it’s safe to say that we’ve both got The Sailing Bug. We just need to find somewhere to keep that boat now….

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Steep learning curve

Picture of the launch of the Fal River Festival, last Friday - a very nautical week!

Last week we enrolled on a sailing course – as the last time I’d sailed a dinghy was 40 years ago, and Mr B 15 years ago, we felt it was time to go back to basics. Well, day one was great, if hard work.

Going back over things like safety equipment and then rigging I was rusty enough, but then actually tacking – with a tiller extension which I’ve never used – had me panicking when we did it on dry land. Had I really done all that (like a seated dance) when I was so young?

But we got out on the water and I made Mr B go first so that when it was my turn, at least he’d know what to do. Our instructor shouted directions from the safety boat nearby, then said, “Sue. Your turn.” From then on I forgot trying to remember what to do and went by instinct. And it was amazing – though I was concentrating so hard I didn’t have time to think about anything else. But when I realised we could do it – and not capsize – I felt so exhilarated I could have flown. By the time we got back that afternoon, I lay on my bed for a bit and felt like a balloon, blown up with great happiness and achievement. As well as doing it with Mr B of course – for we work well in a boat together.

Sadly that was the only day we could sail as it was too windy after that, so we ploughed through hours of metereology, aerodynamics of sail, tides and charts, to say nothing of latitude and longitude and all that stuff which frankly makes my head spin. The second day I felt just as if I was back at school, in a strange country. trying to speak a foreign language, with everyone telling me I was stupid because I couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried, understand.

My brain hasn’t struggled like this since I left school, (my journalism course was hard work but pure joy) but because this was science and maths, both topics I am woefully bad at, this course brought back all kinds of feelings of inadequacy and failure. Luckily our instructor was very patient, but since then I’ve been doing half an hour per day with Mr B, trying to make sense of it all. He’s good at explaining things and says it helps him learn by telling me, so together I’m sure we can make some sense of it all. And it brings a new dimension to life – we’re always looking at the clouds now, to see what weather is coming our way.

So it just goes to show that it’s never too late for any of us to learn anything. And, more to the point, enjoy it. We’re owed 3 more sailing days from the course hopefully this weekend if the weather’s good enough, and then – watch out, sailors in Falmouth. Here we come!

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Ballet for everyone

This picutre has nothing to do with this post but was taken in Helston on the way back from a lovely hostelry called the Blue Anchor. "Look," said Mr B. "There's a good shot."

Last week I was fortunate enough to see Matthew Bourne’s production of Sleeping Beauty at the Hippodrome in Bristol. For those of you who aren’t balletomanes (and I know many aren’t), Matthew Bourne’s ballets are most un-ballet like, as reflected in his audience, which ranged from age 8 to 90, of both sexes. He is an incredible choreographer, who tells a story with great wit, tenderness and drama. I was trying to describe it but it works better as free verse. I'm nervous about this as I've never written verse before, but it doesn't work in prose, so here are a few lines:-

When the curtain goes up
Everyone’s hushed, transported
On a spellbinding, magical visual feast
That surprises and delights
Every sense.
The costumes – Gothic at first
Then Edwardian, now hoodies and jeans.

The music – haunting and lyrical
Dramatic and wrenching –
Tchaikovsky at his best.

The dancing – feather light,
Dashing, dramatic and witty
From the King, the Queen,
The Princess, the Woodman
And the Vampire

All brought to a crashing finale
Where love conquers all
In the most tender scene
Hands caress cheeks
Reach out for each other
Love stretching over 100 years

Happily weeping
At the end
Clapping shakes the building
As we shuffle out
Walking through the dark city streets
With my dancing feet
Music pounding through my head
And love in my veins.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Two days of idyllic summer

This time yesterday I was running barefoot along the beach at Trebarwith Strand, chasing Moll, who loves to roar up and down like a lunatic, ears streaming out behind her.

Deb and I spent two nights at the Port William pub at Trebarwith Strand, near Tintagel, which is the most idyllic spot – though as summer had suddenly decided to hit, even if only for two days, we timed it just right. We arrived on Sunday evening with the sky a deep Mediterranean blue, the tide coming in, and everyone sitting outside lapping up the sunshine.

However, on arrival we found we’d been allocated a double room rather than twins. Motto one – good friendships can be destroyed by sharing a bed. Particularly if one of you snores. Though they did promise to put us in a twin bedroom the following night.

The result was a sleepless night. I’m used to a king sized bed, not a small double, and having The Pyjama Clad Snorer next to me, plus Moll clamped to my right hip, made for a very hot night. At one point I got up to open the window, but Moll decided she didn’t like the noise of the waves roaring beneath, and retired to sit beside the bed, panting pathetically. I then panicked, thinking she was going to overheat and jumped out of bed to check her water bowl. She wouldn’t stop panting, so I shut the window a bit.

Next time I looked, she’d disappeared. I panicked once more. Finally found her in the bathroom, sitting behind the door on the tiled floor which was, presumably, cooler and quieter. I returned to bed, gave the Snorer another prod, which stopped the snoring for a few minutes, and on it went.

However, having got up we had a fabulous breakfast and set off over the cliffs to walk to Tintagel which was one of the best walks I’ve done recently. It was so stunningly beautiful – and so hot we got sunburnt – that I will never forget it and can’t wait to go back.

Monday evening saw us taking a picnic up the cliffs behind the pub, and we sat there with our wine and cheese, olives and other picnic fare, looking out over Port Isaac Bay, and thought how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful part of the world. We then went back to the pub and sat outside with a glass of wine watching the surfers catch the last waves as the sun set. Magic.

Now it’s back to real life…..

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Itchy Feet

(Ship moored up the river Fal)

This morning, as I write, sun shimmers on the rippling water, Flushing ferry carries giggling schoolchildren and boats toss gently, itching to be off their moorings. It’s a day for boating, and adventure. A sparkling day when anything could happen.

In one of the nationals last weekend was a piece that caught my eye about secret islands in the Med. Then I started reading A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi which is a beautifully written account of a middle aged woman’s love affair with Venice – and how she married a Venetian (and has stayed happily married, for those cynical readers).

She writes so magically, she’s connected to something in my brain so that at 3am, I was feverishly covering scraps of yellow paper with words that tumbled from my mind, insisting on making their mark.

Her descriptions of Venice have given me wanderlust. So, I want to go back to the Greek islands. I want to go to Venice. Portugal, perhaps? Turkey? Another friend’s going to Cuba in November. All these wonderful places to go and see….

I haven’t been abroad for many years. Pip wasn’t keen on any travel that didn’t involve a boat, and our last few trips further afield weren’t a success, so I started organising Cornish holidays instead which suited us well, having Moll.

“I think you should go travelling,” said my Mum, reinforcing my itchy feet. But my two problems are:- 1) finding the right person to go with and 2) if I don’t travel with Moll, finding someone to look after her.

I have four good friends that I know I can travel with enjoyably. (I have been away with good friends and for some reason it hasn’t worked on holiday. My dear husband was one.) Three of these friends are incredibly busy this year embarking on other life changing far flung experiences. The last one I know we’d have a great time but a certain amount of persuasion is needed.

Then looking after Moll – the friend who usually has her now has a place in Portugal, where they go every spring and autumn. So I’d have to go away to fit in with them.

Mind you, as I have to pay for a new roof in the next week (they’ve just finished it), a holiday might have to take backseat for the moment, unless it’s a cheapie. But I’m definitely going. It’s just a question of when and with whom. And life has a way of making things happen unexpectedly, I find. In the meantime I shall have great fun dreaming and planning.

In the meantime, I’m off to Tintagel on Sunday. Not quite Greece, but it will have to do for the moment.

Wednesday 24 April 2013

A day on the ocean wave

I nearly bought a boat the other weekend. We spied one tucked down a little creek near Porth Navas, which would have been perfect. Sadly the owners wanted a lot more than I was prepared to pay for it. Still, it was a nice dream, and something to work towards. Maybe go halves on a boat? Let’s see what happens.

It was a gorgeously sunny day on Saturday so we headed out on the boat and had a fabulous day. There’s something so special about being out on the water that is, as Mr B said, almost as relaxing as being asleep. I think it’s because you can tune out and get away from everyday problems: the only sounds are the gentle chug of the engine, the lap of the waves, and endless little things to observe that you wouldn’t have time to notice otherwise.

A heron or egret standing shyly on the river bank.

Cormorants – three of them – drying their wings on a large buoy, heads tilted to show their best profiles.

Dark, hidden caves, only visible from the sea.

Moll standing on her hind legs, ears flying back, looking at the water rushing by.

Our smiling, salt spattered faces.
We made the most of the day as there will be a short break from boating for a few weeks. Then, weather permitting, lots more. We hope.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Roofing and other trials

Life continues to be busy, as ever. Most pressing of all is trying to sort a new roof. (She says casually.) Over the last few weeks we’ve had gale force south easterly winds which, on Bank Holiday Monday, nearly ripped the flat roof off my house and the two next door. Luckily Mr B and Joe leapt up there like mountain goats and secured it with a plank and bags of cement (no mean feat in winds so strong they could hardly stand up), and the next day Tony came and secured it with battens. Since then I’ve been getting quotes and we’d got it all sorted when one of the other landlords put a spanner in the works on Monday night.

So my blood pressure has been a little high over the last few days. Thankfully I’m able to let off steam but I shall be glad when the next hurdle is crossed.

On a brighter note, we had an interesting time clay pigeon shooting last week (see above). To my chagrin, I didn’t hit a single clay but neither did Mr B which mollified me a little. We then went on to Godrevy to pick mussels. Well, we didn’t actually because the rock we had in mind was under water when we got there (and yes, I had checked low tide) but we had a good recce and earmarked it for next time (always good to have an excuse to go to Godrevy).

And while we may not have got any mussels, we went round the corner and saw a cove full of seals – about 50 of them – all sunbathing on the beach. Now that was a sight I will never forget. (But as I didn’t have the camera, you will just have to imagine it.)

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Agent Hunter and several glimpses of sunshine

The church at Sancreed - to prove that we have had a bit of Cornish sunshine....

I don’t have an agent for my walks books, but I’m still on the lookout for a publisher and/or agent for my novel, FOUR LEFT FEET (which is being read by an independent publisher at the moment).
As most writers know, getting an agent is an incredibly difficult process, because it’s not just about our writing ability, the book’s marketability and a whole host of other things, but it’s about chemistry. An agent needs to fall in love with your novel and believe in it. And as we all know, falling in love is not something that can happen to order.

So when I was sent an email about Agent Hunter, I read it with interest. Have a look, and this is what my fellow writing friend Emma had to say:-

“I really like the look of this site, Sue. Great to have info about specific agents, much more detailed than the WAYB and much easier to keep up to date I imagine. Knowing which writers specific agents rather than agencies represent is great to know as well, and specifically what kind of work they like. Agents and agencies are changing so much all the time it must be an advantage to have a resource of this kind. Twelve pounds seems pretty reasonable for access to such detailed up to date information and I'd definitely think about signing up. I guess it would be good to know more about how it works in practice (if it is up to date or whether it just seems it) but as it's new it will take a while for people to start getting results.”
So all you writers out there – take a look!

Meanwhile, I’m editing another walk that we did on Friday at Sancreed. Fabulous sunshine although it was very windy. And on Saturday we had our first trip out in the boat, which was wonderful. Tomorrow I’m off to have a lesson in clay pigeon shooting for Cornwall Today, then we’re going to pick mussels at Godrevy. Shame the forecast is so dire….

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Ahoy there sailor!

On Easter Monday I had my long awaited Christmas present – a trip on the Dutch brig (tall ship) Mercedes. This was booked at Christmas and I had been in a state of growing excitement ever since, so when I got an email saying that an extra trip had been put on, on Easter Sunday, we decided that we couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

Saturday was lovely – as you can see from the picture by David Barnicoat above. Sunny, enough breeze to put all the sails up, and a good time was had by all. However, I got back on Saturday to find a message saying that our evening trip had been cancelled due to bad weather, but would we like to go on the Sunday day trip? We decided we would and had an early night.

Sunday dawned bitterly cold, with an easterly wind that strips any warmth from the most well padded of bodies. Undeterred, I put on three thermal vests and layered up on top of that, finishing with my duffel coat, woolly hat and thick scarf. Might not have looked too elegant but it did the trick.

It was pretty rough but I did enjoy it – it’s fabulous being out in the bay with three metre waves, on a ship like that, and feeling the whole force of nature with you. Also, I wasn’t at all frightened, which I would have been even probably a year ago. I figured we were in good hands and we wouldn’t have gone out if the skipper had had any qualms about the weather. Still, while I didn’t feel sick, I didn’t feel like eating either which, as my friends know, is most unlike me.

I awoke on Monday morning – the day of my proper Christmas present – filled with foreboding. The easterly wind had become a gale that screeched in and out of the houses, and the waves in the harbour tossed and groaned as if having a terrifying tantrum. The skies were grey and heavy and I wondered what on earth I was doing. I very nearly wimped out, but got a text to the effect that I’d be glad I’d done it. So I thought yes – I will. And after all, it was a very generous present.

Even so, we dropped Moll off at a friend’s and I gave her my brother-in-law’s phone number (he has a key to my house) and the phone number of a friend who would have Moll if anything happened to us. Anna laughed uproariously (I didn’t), and we departed for the docks for the second time. On board we were greeted and treated like family and from then on we had a fabulous time.

It was very rough – the waves were four metres – too rough to go out in the bay. But we had a wonderful sail up and down the Carrick Roads and in the harbour and got a real taste of what it would be like to sail on a tall ship. We got talking to the crew, learned more about their lives and about the ship, and promised to meet up when they come back to Falmouth next year.

Sitting in the pub later, we glowed with wind and salt and exercise, and planned doing a sailing course – when the weather’s warmer. It was the most fabulous day, and one I know I will never forget.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

A night away

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to review Trenython Manor, near Fowey, while doing a walk at Tywardreath, both for Cornwall Today. The choice of hotel brought a wry smile as I’d actually worked there about 25 years ago in the bar. I got the sack. Mr B looked at me shrewdly. “How long did you work there? One session?” Actually it was several. I was very good at serving drinks, but being innumerate, charged the wrong prices. I was therefore very popular with the customers and not at all with the management. Hence, I was out.

Luckily, it was long enough ago that no one knew my employment history, and I was longing to go back and have a look. The hotel’s now very splendid, with incredibly friendly and courteous young staff, and our stay included a night in one of their lodges, in the hotel grounds. I was also offered a spa session, so had an hour long full body massage which was wonderful, before heading back to join Mr B and Moll watching TV. We had a glass of wine and changed for dinner, then headed back to the hotel.

Dinner was lovely and incredibly reasonably priced – cheaper than the pubs in Falmouth – and beautifully presented and served, and the buffet the next morning was the best breakfast I’ve ever had. We said thank you and goodbye, wishing we could stay another night, but work beckoned.

We headed off to Tywardreath to do the House on the Strand walk later, which was a lovely way to explore the nearby countryside as figured in Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name – if you haven’t read it, do try it.

When we finally got home, we felt we’d been away for about a week rather than just one night. If ever you feel like a trip to Fowey, I would heartily recommend it. As Mr B said, “It was better than best.”

And now I have to write them both up - in double quick time....

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Good news!

This was taken near St Ives a few weeks ago - to prove that we have had the odd lovely day.

Two reasons for being cheerful this week.

Firstly, I have just signed the contract for my second walks book – Circular Walks with Cornish Writers, with Sigma Press. They are very approachable and friendly publishers – this first book has been a steep learning curve but they’ve been very patient with me which helps hugely. Particularly as I’ve never met them – they are in Wales.

Secondly, and in conjunction with this, I have got the go ahead to interview Richard and Judy as two of my writers. The interview time is yet to be arranged, but hopefully some time next month.

In January, we were coming back from a walk for Cornwall Today, near Looe, when I saw a sign to Talland Bay. “Let’s have a look,” I said, “I know Richard and Judy have a house there.” So we set off down an increasingly narrow lane until we met a shiny black car (Beamer or something) coming towards us. “Bet that’s Richard,” laughed Mr B. And as we slowed to squeeze by – it was!

And now I will get to meet them both. I’ve just read Judy’s novel, Eloise, which I really enjoyed, and Richard has a novel coming out soon. So it will be an interesting interview, no doubt.

Now, what questions would you like to ask them?

And keep your fingers crossed for some good weather this weekend - I have a deadline to do a Cornwall Today walk and the forecast's not wonderful!

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Penzance and Amanzi

This inquisitive cow and her mates chased us over a stile near St Ives.

Last week I had a week in Penzance – it’s not exactly far from Falmouth, but you don’t need to go far from home just to have a break. And as I love Penzance, and have friends and cousins down there, it’s a good place to go at very little notice.

The first weekend we were walking back from Marazion when we saw a swarm of starlings, just before dusk. It was the most magical sight, like a constantly waving cloud, buzzing over the church. Sadly I didn’t have my camera – it was too cold to take pictures – my hands would have frozen - but the starlings looked amazing. And several days later, as I walked out with Moll, a swarm flew over my head. A never to be forgotten moment.

Thankfully the weather warmed up and we had several fabulous walks, and in decent weather so I was able to take pictures for the book/Cornwall Today. On Friday I met cousins for lunch at the Penlee Gallery and we sat outside in shirt sleeves in the sun! A far cry from where I am now, typing in 2 long sleeved thermal vests, one Viyella shirt and a thick Norwegian jumper on top of that. I might look like a Yeti but it does help keep that bitter easterly wind out.

On Saturday I was fortunate enough to be invited for another free dinner at Amanzi restaurant in Falmouth. I’d written a review of this South African restaurant back in the summer, and they were so pleased, and their business has picked up so much since my review, that they offered me another free meal. So I took my mate Deb, who is not having an easy time of things at the moment, and we had “one of the nicest evenings I’ve had for a long while” (she said).

As I couldn’t decide what to eat – it all looked so good - we ended up having scallops, mussels in a Thai sauce with crispy bread, grated Biltong with avocado salad, and falafel with salad. A real feast, and the fish was cooked to perfection. If ever you’re in Falmouth do go – it’s not expensive and the quality and service is amazing. You won’t be disappointed!

And now I must rush – the van has had a flat battery and it’s taking ages to sort it out. Long suffering Mr B has been ferrying me between home and the garage regularly. Thank god for special mates.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

It was Meant

My paternal grandmother was, I have to say, not my favourite person, but one of her sayings was, “It was Meant,” – about something that she felt she had no control over. As a pessimist, this was frequently something dire, but occasionally it could be something good that happened – a chance meeting, perhaps.

And this got me thinking about two women that have come into my life over the past few weeks. They are both called Maggie and are around the same age, but there the similarity ends.

One came about because I left one of my business cards in the pub in Devoran. It has a picture of Moll jumping up on it and as Moll was jumping up for crisps, as is her wont, it wasn’t hard to figure out whose card it was, and Maggie emailed me. We met up, got on like a house on fire, and found we have similar backgrounds. We are also both journalists, worked in TV (Maggie has her own production company) and have written novels. Better still, she and her partner have just moved down here.

I met the second Maggie last weekend as she was my mum’s current carer. She’s not had the easiest path in life – a v difficult first marriage, but happily married now and has been living in the mountains in Spain for the last 12 years, having always dreamt of living there since she was a child. She’s a fabulous cook and used to run a restaurant and now takes the overflow from her son’s B&B/holiday accommodation nearby.

It looks so beautiful, and she said, “If ever you want a cheap holiday, get in touch.” Having seen the website, I am sorely tempted.

She’s also had breast cancer and, like many of us who have been touched by death, lives very much for the moment. “It means I’m not afraid of anything any more,” she said. “There’s no point in worrying about stuff that may not happen. I believe that when that big ball in the sky comes up with your number on, there’s nothing you can do about it. So I’m going to make the most of my life until it does.”

What more can I say?

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Where are we going?

The weather has been so dire recently that it’s been nigh impossible to do any walks for Cornwall Today or my forthcoming walks book. At the end of January we had a weekend in South East Cornwall and managed a couple of walks but that was for the first time in over two months. My poor camera has also gone into a sulk.

And as if to coincide with this mud induced hibernation, my dear friend Viv, well known by CT readers, has been stuck in London since early October. My other dear walking buddy is Oop North for a short while, so it was sheer chance that I bumped into an ex-neighbour: a nurse who works in the High Dependency Unit at Treliske and was there when Pip died. (She also gave me the best possible advice about dealing with death, having lost her son not long ago. “The sooner you can accept it, the easier it will be to get over it,” she said. That helped me more than I can say.)

I hadn’t seen her for a year or more and bumped into her in Sainsbury’s a few weeks ago. We went for a drink and discovered a mutual love of walking, so I invited her along one day. She wasn’t working yesterday, and as the weather’s been dry and sunny (gasp), I thought great, we can do a walk for CT and/or the book.

Next was where to go – I have 6 destinations that need to be explored, but there’s a south east wind blowing that’s bitter, so it’s better to walk on the North Coast, away from the icy blast. I then thought of Padstow, but it’s half term so it would be crowded. So I decided on Bodmin Moor, and off we set for St Clether, and a walk near a Holy Well that I thought would be interesting.

“Great,” said Fiona. “It’s near Altarnun. I know that well.” So off we set.
Heading into the depths of Bodmin Moor, her car started bleeping – no petrol. As any Cornish dwellers know, petrol stations are few and far between on Bodmin Moor. After about ten miles of rather nervous driving we spotted a garage – but no petrol (only diesel).

After an even more nervous journey, we found another garage that did have petrol. Phew. We turned off at the Jamaica Inn turning, and drove along a beautiful valley with a stream on our left. “Perfect for cycling,” said Fiona as we drove along, lapping up the graceful sunshine.

Finally we came to our destination and parked outside the church, followed instructions about walking through the churchyard – but couldn’t find the granite posts that should have been there. We tried the other way but that led to the pub (hah!). Heading back to the smaller gate, I spotted the vicarage, so we knocked on the door, which was opened by a charming lady with grey hair and a blustering retriever, hell bent on escape. We proferred our map, explained where we wanted to go.

“Ah,” she said with a smile. “This is St Cleer, not St Clether. But there’s a holy well here, and we were walking on the downs this morning which is lovely.”

As we walked back through the churchyard, I got the giggles, thinking of a particular friend of mine who will be hooting with laughter when he reads this. I always tend to get lost on my walks, but getting lost before we start has to be a first.

So we ended up having a completely different, but one of the loveliest walks I’ve ever had on Bodmin Moor. It was truly magical; eerily quiet, with a hazy spring sunshine dappling through the trees, and the moorland so rugged and ancient: a world away from south Cornwall where I live. It really did feel like we’d travelled to another part of the world.

I came back home filled with the sense of spring: in my living room is a bunch of sweet narcissi that delight me with their cheery deep yellow and orange faces. A pink hyacinth’s scent is richer, more mature, like dark chocolate cake, or a cleverly seasoned curry.

I sat on my sofa, and reflected on the ironies of life. So that, my dear friends, is why I always take someone on my walks. With a sense of direction like mine, I wouldn’t even get there, let alone come back otherwise.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

The Gig and Confidence

The weather's been too bad to take pictures recently, but this was taken several weekends ago on one of our Cornwall Today walks. The walker at work - with camera, tape recorder etc. Though Moll is ahead, nose in a cowpat probably. She rarely suffers from lack of confidence.

Thanks for all your good wishes last week. Thankfully, I woke up one night and found the heavy foot that had been sitting on my chest for the past week had lifted. I still coughed a lot but it was freer, easier, so I could start to sing again.

So that was a great relief, and the gig went really well. I have to say that my confidence in singing with just three of us stems from my friend Paul’s monthly parties in Mylor Bridge where he hires a hall, we all take food and drink and then sing or perform afterwards. The first time I sang with him and Janet I was so terrified I thought I was going to fall over, my legs were literally shaking so much.

But I got over that, and the next time was easier. And the time after that, and after I went wrong at Prussia Cove, and laughed it off, I thought, well that’s the worst that can happen and I survived it.

So on Saturday, while I was nervous, I got up on stage with Paul and Janet and thought, “this is going to be OK.” It’s a smallish stage but feels friendly, and I opened my mouth, and realised I was going to enjoy it. Which I did!

Confidence is such a tricky thing, I find. Lack of it has been my downfall for most of my life, so finally gathering some together is a real joy. It doesn’t take much to knock me down, but at least now I have stakes to hold onto and haul myself back up. I have (in no particular order) my work, singing, some very special friends and boating.

What do you use to pick yourself up with?

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Wheezing and spluttering

I was congratulating myself on not having succumbed to any lurgies when I wrote the post last week about our wet review weekend. Hah! Since the weekend I have been wheezing like a chain smoker on 40 Players a day, and am astonished by how much I’m sleeping.

It appears to be a chest infection, something I was well used to in the days when I smoked heavily – which I’m glad to say was nearly 20 years ago. Since then my lungs have remained germ free but a particularly tenacious bug seems to have settled in there. Sometimes it just makes my chest feel tight, but if, like last night, Paul made me laugh too much, I started coughing and couldn’t stop. So I blame it all on him…

We have a big gig at the Poly in Falmouth on Saturday, though, so I am desperate to be well enough for that. Three of us are singing a couple of numbers which we’ve been rehearsing for weeks, and it would be too unfair not to be able to perform. Although the mere thought of it sends me into spasms of terror.

So think of me on Saturday evening. I will either be wracked with nerves, and spluttering quietly in a corner. Or wheezing and grinding my teeth at home. I hope, knowing me, it will be the former. By hook or by crook…..

Wednesday 30 January 2013


This is the church at Herodsfoot - the walk we did on Saturday. A lovely tucked away, secret little place.

I’ve been fortunate enough, over the last year, to do several reviews of dog friendly accommodation for an annual publication on where to stay with your dog. While I don’t get paid for this, it means they pay for me and another (plus Moll of course) to stay somewhere for 2 nights in return for a write up and photos.

I usually take Viv who is in dire need of some respite, but she is stuck in London at the moment poor love and unable to get back. As you can imagine, I’m not stuck on volunteers to come with me, and each time we go, it turns into an adventure as we never know where we’re going, what the place will be like, or who we’ll meet.

Last Friday we turned up in the dark, in driving wind and rain, already wet due to a quick walk with Moll on the way up – and of course it was wetter than I’d realised. Unfortunately, having made our way down a very long potholed drive, the place we were staying in didn’t have any heating. Or rather, the night store heaters had been turned off.

The lovely fellow there gave us some logs but they were wet, so we had to go back and ask for kindling. He came over with a sackful and soon we got the woodburner going, but it was still icy. Then I saw the electric cooker. “I know,” I said, putting both ovens and all hobs on. We stood in front of the cooker with the doors open, hands outstretched, and breathed a sigh of relief as the warmth began to permeate.

And gradually, we warmed up. Though there was a nasty point at around 9pm when we were just about to settle down to watch a DVD when the power went off. We realised it was due to the coin meter having run of money, so went back to the farmhouse as we didn’t have any £1 coins. Oh, and did they have any hot water bottles?

Luckily they returned with more heaters and a handful of £1 coins. So we got the place warm and manifogled a hot water bottle out of the empty wine bottle we filled with hot water – they make very good substitutes.

So after a dodgy start to the weekend, we ended up doing two great walks for Cornwall Today and all was not lost.

Except that we’re both brewing pretty vicious colds and coughs……