Wednesday 29 January 2014

Farewell Trusted Friend....

The above waterfall was taken on my phone at Kennall Vale - an old gunpowder factory site near Lanner. It has nothing to do with my old computer, but has a lot to do with the rain.

By the time most of you read this, I will be typing from a different keyboard, and a different computer. I hope – Andy’s coming over Thursday to install it all and swap everything from my old computer to the new one. Then he has the unenviable task of teaching me how the new one works. Poor man.

My faithful Hewlett Packard has been getting so slow that in order to start work in the morning, I have to turn it on and go and walk Moll while it warms up for at least half an hour in order to check my emails etc.

This morning I got back from walking Moll to find that it had frozen, so I couldn’t type. Which means having to turn it off – which takes a good ten minutes while it downloads all the updates – then another 15 minutes while it warms up again.

While I shall be sad to say goodbye to this one – other than getting gradually slower and slower, it has never gone wrong – it has been a big part of my professional life. Well, it’s seen me go from amateur to professional. It’s seen me through writing several novels (not yet published), to hundreds and hundreds of articles (published) and two walks books (published).

But there comes a time in life, like all good things, when it’s time to move on.

A friend recently said to me, “The most important things in life are good health and good friends.” If you’re a writer, you also need a good computer.

And talking of good friends, last Friday, my dear friend Viv made a fleeting visit to Cornwall and came to stay the night – she’s been stuck in London for the last 18 months so we haven’t seen each other for a long time, and it was wonderful to catch up. And while she’s had to go back to London, let’s hope things will resolve soon so she can return for good.

My other good mate is still absent, still poorly, and this has gone on for ages now. "Far too long," as he said. Let’s hope the dreaded lurgy passes very soon and he can return, also.

Despite the unending rain – I've had to bail both boats out several times this week - Cornwall seems to have it warmer than most other places. Looking out of my window I can see the bright cheery faces of three daffodils, the shy purple peek of a crocus, and yesterday we saw a cluster of snowdrops near Maenporth beach.

Let’s hope this miserable weather passes very soon, absent friends return, and I can get sailing again very soon.

I leave you with a quote that Mr B found the other day, which expresses how I feel right now perfectly. “Don’t just sit there, sail something!” Oh, how I wish I could…!

Tuesday 21 January 2014

The best made plans

Oh to be on the water... happy days. We will go boating again!

Whenever I’m worried, I walk. It doesn’t make the anxiety go away, but I am too restless to stay still. Right now, as you can imagine, Moll and I are walking miles – ironically, I don’t think I’ve ever felt fitter. So while it doesn’t help me put on the weight I lost, it does keep me sane.

Isn’t it strange how the one time I made plans, it looks like they're not going to happen. For instance,

We were going to have a weekend away in January.
Postponed due to illness.

I was going to have a weekend away in February with Av in Shaldon.
Again – on hold due to hospital date TBC.

I was going to have a week’s holiday in March.
Again – on hold due to hospital date.

On the other hand, I’m telling myself, it doesn’t mean that these won’t happen, just not now.

On the plus side, dear Al (of the wonderful Dragon boat Snap) came down for a few days and on Monday took me for lunch at the Gylly cafĂ© in Falmouth. He’s a tactile fellow so it was lovely to have some hugs and he always makes me feel special – both of which are much needed. It was wonderfully sunny so we sat outside with Moll and put the world to rights. What a lovely fellow he is. Topics of conversation included sailing (of course), racing, Snap, illness, depression, emotional blackmail, his ex wife, his current wife, etc - in other words, we covered everything.

That evening we met photographer Sally and her partner in Beerwolf, a wonderful place that is a bookshop/bar/pub and I found a Collected Works of John Betjeman for £5. I snapped it up, thinking that if I’m going to be incapacitated for a while I’d better start planning what I’m going to do or I fear for my sanity.

My new computer has finally arrived and Andy’s coming to set it up for me next week. This one is so slow it’s driving me mad…..

I had a lift to Paul’s party last Saturday with someone I don’t know very well. She’s travelled a lot in the past but now has a Proper Job and her husband has just retired as a headmaster. At one point in the evening she leant over and whispered, “This is the sort of music to listen to when you’re stoned.”

I grinned, surprised, as this didn’t fit with the idea I had of her. But having talked more to her, I love her approach to life. She's spontaneous, not afraid to take risks and was the first to offer help while I'm off work.

I sense a kindred spirit.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

A Big Scare

The past week has made the Christmas period look like a breeze. If that was a bumpy cycle ride, this has been a white knuckled rollercoaster. I’ve felt as if I’d strayed into someone else’s life, and couldn’t get back to my own.

In reverse order, my credit card was found to be “compromised” (someone had got my card details) – luckily the bank found out and cancelled it pronto before someone made use of it. But it made me realise how vulnerable we are with card fraud.

My dear mate Viv was due to come back to Cornwall for the first time in 18 months and spend the weekend with me, but she was unable to come back because her partner has had to go into hospital. On that note, Mr B is still very poorly and surrounded by illness so he’s not able to get back either.

And lastly, I found a lump in my stomach – about the size of an apple. It wasn’t painful and I didn't have any untoward symptoms, but it was definitely there, so I went to the doctor who prodded me and said I should have an urgent ultrasound and blood tests. Then she rang me when I got home and said she was referring me to a specialist straight away. “It could be a cyst on your bowel or ovaries, but it could be something more sinister,” she said. As there’s bowel cancer in my family, I think you can imagine how I felt.

Two days later I had a phone call saying I had an appointment to see a gynaecologist on 15th Jan. Great, I thought, I won't have to wait long. But the next day I got the letter saying it was for the Gynaecology Oncology department. I freaked.

Fear hovered around me like a particularly bad hangover, about to pounce. I fought against it, determined it wouldn’t take over, but at very wobbly moments, it clawed at me and my stomach plummeted, as if I was in a lift crashing to the ground floor. No matter how wonderful friends are, it’s a terrifying, incredibly isolating experience and makes you feel incredibly vulnerable. The future, that I’d always taken for granted, suddenly hovered like a sinister question mark.

One good thing about all this is, as I learnt when Pip was so ill, is that it made me realise what fabulous friends I have. At times like this you quickly learn who your real friends are, who you can rely on, and who you want to be with. At these times, it’s vital to spend time with the right people. The wrong ones can knock you off balance and I was much too vulnerable for that.

But I saw the gynaecologist today and he thinks it’s a cyst. (Phew.) I have to have a scan next week and they can see more clearly what it is, then go back in 3 weeks to discuss taking my ovaries out to prevent my getting another cyst. The recovery time for surgery is up to 12 weeks and no driving for 6 weeks, both of which fill me with horror, but I will just have to call in favours from my long suffering mates yet again. But at least thank god it doesn't sound as if it's cancer, which has been my worst fear.

Despite having the best friends in the world, who hugged me and mopped up my tears, gave me advice and reassurance, living on my own has been really hard. I’ve felt the absence of strong arms and a cuddle like a hollow ache. So if you know of someone going through similar circumstances, give them a very big hug. It means more than anything.

And remember, we only have one life. We have to look after ourselves - and those we love - and make the most of every day. Life's too short to be unhappy.

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Storms and inspiration

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post, but given the weather recently, I felt we needed a reminder of what Mr B calls "the heady days of summer." Yes they did exist and this was me one summer's evening helming Echo up Mylor Creek.

Last night I was woken by the sound of thousands of nails hitting my bedroom window. Moll started shivering and pressed closer to me. I lay there wondering if someone was trying to break the window, then realised it was hail.

Minutes later, the room was lit up by a huge flash, and Moll dived under the bed. Seconds after that, there was a slow rumble, then it sounded as if the sky was being ripped apart. The rumbling continued, as did the light show, for what seemed like half an hour but was probably ten minutes – I can’t remember any storm being so dramatic.

Eventually everything settled down, Moll clambered back on the bed and we went back to sleep. And it struck me that this storm encapsulated those really traumatic periods that we all go through, that seem to last forever when you’re in the middle of them, but looking back are just a bad patch. They do pass.

I’m fortunate in living at the top of a hill so we haven’t been flooded, like so many around the country. Mind you, I've just realised that my landline doesn't work as a result of the storm - have you tried getting hold of BT to register the fault? And I've gone deaf so my ears need syringing. Sorry - WHAT?

This afternoon I’m off to bail out poor Echo for the umpteenth time and see what damage has been inflicted on her. Last time it took 50 buckets of water to bail her out.

But on Sunday I had a long walk with a friend. We got so wet on the way back that we just had to keep moving, but after a while it was amazing. We splashed through puddles, jumped over lakes and were so wet we almost became part of the rain. I haven’t felt so alive for a long time, it was incredibly exhilarating.

I asked Fiona if she had any plans for 2014 and she said, “Not really. I just want to make sure I make the most of each day.”

Amen to that.

Wednesday 1 January 2014


I don’t know what I would have done without my darling Moll recently. She is my constant companion in times rough and smooth and means more to me than I can say, for she is just always there for me. And for that I thank her from the bottom of my heart. For those of you who don’t have dogs, the relationship is incredibly special. For those that do, or who know Moll, you will know what I mean.

For the last two weeks, I’ve felt like a lone cyclist on an ancient pushbike, heading down a very rocky road. It was, of course, a very bumpy ride, not helped by the fact that the person I wished to be with was several hundred miles away (also having a really difficult time).

(Just in case anyone got the wrong end of the stick from last week's post, I have not been anorexic for many many years, thank god, though I do tend to lose weight easily if I'm upset. Like at Christmas.)

It wasn't all dire – on Boxing Day morning it finally stopped raining for five minutes, so Moll and I had a long walk ending up on Prince of Wales pier to watch the lucky fellows out on their boats for the Boxing Day race. (Next year that will be me, I hoped.) There were a few moments on New Year’s Eve when I felt surrounded by the love of a big family, even if it wasn’t mine. Now some narcissi are showing their cheerful little faces on the table in my window, and outside I see lots of daffodils pushing buds up already.

Now all the Christmas bit is over (hooray!), my spirits have lifted. It’s another year, and time to plan ahead. A well deserved weekend away in January - not to the Towans, but somewhere by the sea, perhaps? Line up some interviews. Take a friend to Beerwolf for a drink. Go to the pictures. Get out walking with some friends again rather than the solitary walks over Christmas. Get out on Echo soon....

As two of my closest mates are having rough times, I wish for better times ahead for them, too. It was a great relief to hear from Mr B last night and from Viv this morning. She is due down here soon and let’s hope Mr B can follow before too long.

So to all of my dearest friends, near and far, Moll and I send you much love and a warm hug. Let’s hope 2014 supplies us with love, happiness, good health, good ground for walking and good winds for sailing. And a good strong table or two….