Wednesday 30 April 2014

Comings and goings

The above picture was taken at Constantine woods where we went to see the bluebells - they weren't quite out, but hope they will be soon.

For the first time in nearly two months, I’m beginning to feel more myself, in more ways than one - or more than I’m prepared to write about in public….

My energy levels are better, but that’s not just it. I feel more me, which is hard to define. I know this experience has changed me, but it’s too early to work out in what ways. I feel at once stronger and more vulnerable, that’s all I know. But I guess life’s like that. We hopefully learn from all our experiences, and they make us wiser people. Shame that by the time we’ve accumulated all this knowledge, we snuff it, but such is life.

I’m reading a book called The Bookshop That Floated Away, about a bookshop on a barge. In her book she talks about people who have walk on roles but she doesnt see again because she moved on - literally speaking, in the boat.

Someone who came into my life unexpectedly, and at precisely the right time, was Emma McCurrach, who runs a wonderful dog walking service called K9 Social. She took to Moll immediately and sent me texts when I was in hospital of pictures of Moll at the farm, and updates of how she was, which meant so much to me. She’s turned into a wonderful friend - at least, I hope she continues to be so - and is coming round for a curry soon.

That got me thinking though about people I’ve known in the past who have been very important for a while, then I haven’t seen them again. One is a friend called Sandra who I would love to meet up with, as we were very close for years.

Some people burst into our lives like shining stars, as if they’ve been dropped there by a fairy godmother. Some leave deep emotional footprints; some very faint ones. Some stay and some go but I don’t think that matters so much. It’s what happens while they’re there that’s important.

And I leave you with a quote from a film I saw recently. “When happiness shows up, always give it a comfortable seat.”

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Six weeks on...

Here's Moll down at Mylor the other day, having been seeing to Echo...

Today I had my six week check up - all was well, though I have been incredibly tired recently, and it doesn't seem to be getting better. "Been doing too much too soon?" said my surgeon cheerfully. I explained that being freelance, I had rush of work when I least needed it, which probably slowed down the recovery period. (The lone sailor doesnt call me Speedy for nothing.)

The surgeon assured me that the fatigue will get better, but I have to pace myself - which I have been doing. And actually, it takes 3-6 months to start feeling better.

I said to the lone sailor later, "Thank god he didn't tell me that before i had the op. I would have completely freaked out." Now I'm slightly more realistic about it all as I realise I can't hurry it. I will be better when I'm better. And if I can't race at Falmouth Week (oh god I hope I can), at least I'll be able to sail.

In the meantime, I have to have some blood tests in a few weeks and another check up in three months, and after that follow up is by phone call. Job done.

My surgeon is one of those people that inspires confidence. He also has a great sense of humour, very black twinkly eyes and is constantly assessing me (us) to see how much we're taking in. He's extremely modest and, unlike some extremely intelligent people, particularly in the medical profession, doesn't talk down to you, but explains things clearly. He likes being asked questions (he knows I'm a journalist and expects me to ask questions). And he's always cheerful. Which, if you consider he's an oncologist, is amazing.

So here's to my Moll and my surgeon. Two sources of humour, intelligence and inspiration.

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Missed chances and blubometers

Here's a picture of a ploughed field just beyond Mylor Harbour. I loved the furrows in contrast to the skyline and the trees..... and it's to cheer up one of my dearest friends who is having a really terrible time at the moment.
After the tumultuous last few weeks, my flat is quiet all of a sudden. Last night was the first I’d spent alone for five weeks. The lone sailor is on his boat in St Mawes, as we speak, testing the autopilot. And after the roaring adrenaline of last week, I am exhausted so it's good to have time and peace to myself.

While it would have been lovely to have gone as well, my stomach is not up to getting in and out of dinghies, let alone climbing ladders or hauling sheets (ropes) or being tossed around (it’s very lumpy out there today). I had thought that as the six week period approaches I would feel magically better. While I am much more mobile and able to get around more, I’m still wary about driving (in case I have to do an emergency stop), my stitches tug a lot of the time, and I'm still having to wear baggy clothes which makes me feel somewhat androgynous, which is not me at all.

I was to have gone on a press jolly today, on a ferry welcoming the Tres Hombres tall ship into Falmouth. Sadly the PR rang me - they’ll be going two miles out into the Bay and she was worried in case it might be a bit rough for me (ie my stitches). I consulted with weather forecast, lone sailor and others and decided, reluctantly, to err on the side of caution. Not like me, but I so want to get better as soon as I can and I daren’t risk anything that might set me back. And on the bright side, it means I don't have to cancel our singing rehearsal.

Still, I’m meeting the ship’s cook on Thursday for an interview, so hopefully I will be able to get on board without mishap and have a good snoop which will be just as interesting, and without the fear of being seasick. (Though I can't wait to get on the water.)

I went to singing for the last 15 minutes last week and we sang The Lower Lights which always tends to make me a bit misty eyed. I’d had a very busy week work wise and was coming to the end of four deadlines so I was stressed and over emotional, and the words made me think of losing Pip, as they always do. Of the special men in my life. Of how we just never know what’s going to happen (which can be a blessing). Soon I was gulping hard - not easy when you’re trying to sing. In fact, impossible.

When we finished, by which time I was a blotchy eyed mess, our musical director looked over at me and said fondly, “Oh Sue. You’re my blubometer. If you don’t cry when we sing that number, I know we’ve done something wrong.”

And lastly, here's a sun drenched bank of primroses down at Helford Village on Sunday,with Cornwall looking at its very best.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Lionel Shriver and the River of Life

This was taken at Loe Beach regatta last year, on a perfect day, from Echo. Nothing to do with this post,but I'm writing a piece on regattas which has made me desperate to get on the water again soon....

When an editor asks if you would like to interview Lionel Shriver there is only one response.

What I hadn't realised was that it would entail interviewing her this week - and in addition, having not just one but three lots of copy to turn in this week. Not part of the recovery plan, but also not the kind of thing to turn down. So I’ve been working, sleeping, walking a bit, resting, working, resting etc.

The interview with Lionel was yesterday, and after a slightly hesitant start, I so enjoyed it. She's a fascinating person with a razor sharp mind - and, of course, she's a brilliant writer. I found we have a lot in common - same age, no children, both have Raynaud’s Disease, both independent and determined, both buy clothes from car boots. She is of course a lot hugely successful but wrote a fascinating piece on Failure (thanks, Mr B for unearthing that one!) which is a much neglected topic in my opinion. I left there feeling WOW with my head buzzing.

Now I have to write it up and file copy soonest - only 600 words which is a nightmare as there's so much I'll have to leave out.I've also got to file two other sailing pieces - and just sent a walk in as well. OK it’s not part of the plan but it’s the right side of challenging, and now the antibiotics have left my system, I can at least think again which is a bonus.

Last week Mr B told me about Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, which he’s reading at the moment. In it, JKJ was talking about the river of life, and said something like, “Don’t think of the things we want in life, think of the things we can’t do without: a home, a dog or cat, someone to love and someone to be loved by, one or two good friends, a pipe and a drink for one is bound to get thirsty”.

At first I thought, yes what good advice. And then, as I thought about it one night, I decided that surely we should want to LIVE our lives, not merely exist. By which I mean that if we’re not happy, we SHOULD think of the things we want in life, for surely the whole point of us being here is to be happy?

I don’t mean aspiring to a way of life that is beyond our financial means, but having FUN. Even if it's making the time to go walking, a day out or an adventure. A sail! Maybe just sitting by the fire and reading. Of course it depends on the company, too. But I truly believe that if something is wrong in our lives - we’re not happy for whatever reason, we should do something about it - after all, we only get one shot at it. As a friend of mine (who is an ex-member of AA says), “there are no such things as victims. Only volunteers.”

I have what I call an Open Door policy, by which I mean if something is wrong in my life, I try and do whatever I can to change it. If I need more work I pitch to endless magazines or agents for my book. When I was in Devon and feeling really stuck, I applied for endless job interviews, accepted a random invitation to Cornwall and met my late husband. Friends of mine are trying desperately to move, and seeing endless houses. Finally they’ve found somewhere. Another friend who was unhappy in her relationship finished it after many years. She was on her own for ages, then met someone she’s very happy with.

I do believe that if you truly wish some aspect of your life to change, if you open as many doors as you can, then turn your back on the problem, something will happen (though maybe not what you quite envisaged). But you have to have done your best and really want that change, before things happen.

Lionel was talking about this yesterday. It’s so important in life to have a go - remember, it’s never too late. It it doesn’t work out, then at least you’ve tried, and you can have a go at something else. And in the words of the inimitable Jack Nicholson, you won’t spend the rest of your life thinking, “I should have asked her to dance…”

Tuesday 1 April 2014


Not that this picture has anything to do with fog, but I took it on a walk with Sally over on the Roseland and loved it.

Over the weekend I started to feel like a boat adrift in fog. Actually, sailing in fog is incredibly dangerous, and I don't mean that I am in danger, more that I had no idea where I was going. I could hear the foghorn, and I knew that my nearest and dearest were nearby, but I sensed that this was something I had to do on my own. And that I wanted to do on my own.

It's all to do with the fact that life has been incredibly unreal for the last month or so, and very slowly bits of normality are seeping through. I am able to walk a little way with Moll. I have some really interesting work coming up, though my energy levels are very low, so I have to allocate short periods of time to a) walk with my Moll - the lovely Emma still takes her out in the afternoons; b) work, c) rest - I tend to crash out in the afternoons when I can and d) see friends.

The down side of having a lot of friends is that it takes a lot of energy to keep up with them all. Last week I realised I just didn’t have that energy, and really felt the need for some time to myself. So the lone sailor has taken himself off to work on the boat and I’m spending time on my own (with Moll) working, reading and sleeping, which is what I desperately need.

Friends ring which is lovely, but meeting is a bit much at the moment. So if I’ve been a bit quiet - bear with me. Do ring, but I need to recover by conserving what little energy I have. Having said that, my brothers are coming down on Friday which will be wonderful, so I need to prepare for that.

I do get frustrated at times, but I’ve finished the antibiotics and on Sunday had a delicious glass of wine and toasted my loved ones. I also had a little walk with Moll on Saturday and Sunday, and the joy on her little face was, I guess, echoed on mine. I’ve really missed our walks together and I know she’s been very confused by the whole process, wondering why I couldn’t come out with her, and why she couldn’t jump all over the bed (not on my stomach!). But on Saturday night she cuddled up to me as she always used to, and lay clamped to my thigh all night. I felt very blessed then.

Having had such a stormy start to the year, I have no idea what lies ahead. But that’s OK. I am fortunate in being well loved and as my dear friend Deb says, “just go with the flow, Sue”.

So here’s another toast. To sailing, to happiness and to going with the flow.