Wednesday 25 March 2015

Coming Out

Godrevy, last October, because I feel like something Soothing.

At my book group last week, I was amazed to find out that several of the group are extremely nervous drivers.

I had panic attacks for over 20 years while driving, caused by a horrific incident at work. My dear late husband tended to drive for me which actually made the problem worse, because I wasn't tackling it. So it wasn’t till he died, and I HAD to drive, that I started gaining confidence in my driving. (According to others, I am actually a good driver, so it was nothing to do with my abilities, though panic attacks rarely are.)

I was fine for years till suddenly, late last year I had a panic attack - out of nowhere - driving up to my mum’s. I only ever tend to experience them when I’m going at speed - i.e. along a dual carriageway (we don’t have motorways in Cornwall!) - and it’s very frightening, not least because I’m in charge of a powerful bit of machinery that is going fast.

Anyway, I told Mr B and we had lots of practises, and I drove up to my mum’s last time with only a few wobbly moments (well,quite a few, but I got better as I went along).

My friend Av and I have booked to meet at a pub near Chagford on Friday night, which we’re both looking forward to, particularly as I wasn’t feeling so wobbly about driving. Then last night I was coming back from a writers’ evening in Falmouth - i was tired, admittedly, so left early and was looking forward to lighting the fire and having a glass of wine - and suddenly, walking up the hill, past Mr B’s house, this old Fear crept up and tapped me on the shoulder.

It’s difficult to describe but it’s rather like a persistent hangover, that lurks like a dark cloud, dampening my spirits and prodding my mind with cold, wet fingers. I didn’t sleep much last night, replaying which way I’d drive to Dartmoor. The short way which is all dual carriageway (which I hate) or go the much longer way, a route I’m not sure of, over Dartmoor? Then I started thinking what if I break down? I’d be better off on a main route rather than stuck on Dartmoor.

Have I ever broken down? No. Have I got breakdown cover? Yes. Have I got a full charged mobile phone in case of emergencies? Yes (though there may not be a signal on Dartmoor.)

And of course I started worrying about other things then, as you do. So I’m a bit groggy this morning. My scar hurts, and - well, you know what it’s like after a bad night. But it’s lovely and sunny so Moll and I walked by the sea, and I checked the tyre pressures on the way back (they’re fine, when I was convinced that the driver’s side needed pumping up).

Talking to my other friends last week made me realise just what a common problem this is. And how it inhibits our lives - needlessly. I hate to be beholden to some stupid, illogical fear that prevents me doing what I want to do. My other friends have either had help or are getting help to overcome their problems, so I refuse to be beaten by it.

I will set off on Friday morning and practise my deep breathing, and sing - whichever way I go to Dartmoor. Because it is a proven fact that you cannot have a panic attack if a) you sing and b) you laugh. I think c) is have hiccups, but I wouldn’t want to try that.

Anyone else had similar problems? It’s worthy of a piece, methinks…..

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Forward planning

On Saturday I was staying at my mum’s, reading the review part of her Times magazine - Melanie Reid’s Spinal Column where she talked about needing to plan for the end of our lives, and how she wants to see humane legislation on assisted suicide.

It wasn’t a depressing column - far from it. She said how much she loves her life, difficult though it is, but how she wants to plan for a pain free and happy end, and I totally agree with her.

Having recently lost someone very dear to me to suicide, it’s obviously made me think about the subject - not in too much detail: it’s still too raw for that. But I can understand why they did it. Or at least I can hazard a guess as to why.

Last night I watched The Imitation Game - an excellent piece of acting by Benedict Cumberbatch which was agonising towards the end. You could feel the poor man’s shame and anguish, disbelief and sense of betrayal; his sense of isolation and his utter powerlessness. It woke me in the night, and crept into my dreams.

The next night I dreamed about my late husband and his brother, at their workshop in Penryn. Pip had been very furtive, not like him at all, so I gave him a hug and said, "Why are you avoiding me? I'm your wife!" He replied, "I'm sorry, darling. I've been frightened of dying. I don't want to leave you."

I strongly believe it up to us to do what we want with our lives. I hope to make the best use of mine, but having suffered from depression, I know too well what it’s like to waste time: I’ve lost years of my life that I’m trying to make up. But if someone is in a lot of pain I quite understand not wanting to go on. We all want quality of life.

Melanie Reid mentioned a Professor David Clark at University of Glasgow, who wants to build a kind of university for the old, providing all types of housing needed from sheltered accommodation to hospice care, and forming a community with shops, learning spaces, cafes, libraries etc so that people can learn, get to know each other and have FUN. This seems the best idea possible and would re-educate us all to plan the end of our lives.

If I was a politician, I’d do anything I could to promote this. As I’m not, take a look at

We talk so much about all aspects of our lives, but most of us are too frightened to talk about the one certainty. It’s about time we removed the taboo and started speaking out. I can't help feeling it would lessen our fear.

Wednesday 11 March 2015


This picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post, but Moll has been on our minds a lot recently as she has probably got to have some teeth out soon which has been very upsetting. For all non dog owners you will probably laugh, but I was in a terrible state on Monday at the prospect, and Mr B couldn't sleep so was up most of the night researching canine gingivitis (gum disease to you and me). So I'm taking her for a second opinion today and we will see where we go.

But back to the real reason for this post. For the past few years I’ve been reviewing dog friendly accommodation for Your Dog magazine. I don’t get paid for this, but it does mean we get two nights away somewhere, on a fairly regular basis, in luxury accommodation (usually) and a chance to visit somewhere I wouldn’t normally go. In return for a review and photographs.

I’ve also reviewed the odd restaurant which I have been paid for, and that’s been great. It’s also been a useful exercise as both Mr B and I eat very quickly. So having to concentrate on what we’re eating, and describe it in detail, is very good for us.

Recently, I’ve been approached by various people - writers and publishers - asking me to review their books. Some of these I review for magazines but sometimes the editors aren’t interested. So last week, I said that I was happy to review this particular book on my blog if the editor concerned wasn’t interested.

The publicist was happy and sent me the book, which is now sitting on my front room table. Having just read three books, all for review, I felt in need of a breather, and read Saving Grace by Jane Green. A fabulous, fast, page turning read which I gobbled, page by page.

No, I don’t work for free: I can’t afford to. But this provides me with free reading material. A chance to think about what I’ve read. And it’s doing the writer a favour.
There’s a certain amount of ‘what goes around, comes around.’ Of course, if I ever get the right headspace to continue writing novels, I may well be able to call in a few favours!

So if anyone out there would like something reviewed - cafe, restaurant, pub, accommodation or books - leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. I can promise a fair and considered opinion.

Tuesday 3 March 2015

A Year on, and Me and Moll

I've just realised that it's a year (on Friday) since I had my hysterectomy. I'm very glad I didn't know recovery would be such a slow, ongoing process. There have been numerous pitfalls, I still have a socking great keloid scar like a rusty zip all the way down my stomach, and it still hurts at times. But overall I'm fit and back to normal. Ish. And for that I'm very grateful. The whole experience knocked my confidence, but I suppose in a way that's right: I was very vulnerable and I did have to be careful. I hope this year I can regain that confidence and start to really enjoy sailing again, after a nasty scare last year.

The curious thing is that all my life I've suffered from terrible chilblains on my feet. Every winter I have had to rub calendula ointment into my toes every morning (it's a great preventative and cure for chilblains if you didn't know). Since my hysterectomy I've had warm feet constantly, all through my recovery and this last winter. I wouldn't advocate a hysterectomy to prevent chilblains, but it's good to know that there's one advantage.

But on to the main purpose of this post. You know they say that owners and their dogs are often alike? Well, it struck me the other day that this isn't just a cliche in our case.

Moll and I both have soft, thick hair that grows quickly. (But she has dark roots and I don't.)

We both love the outdoors: adventuring, chasing sticks, long walks, swimming. Both tomboys at heart.

We are never happier than surrounded by a loved one (or as many as possible in Moll's case), while doing the above.

However, we are both very cuddly and also love snuggling on the sofa - in my case with a glass of wine watching a film. IN her case, she waits till I've got up,then quick as a flash takes my place, nudging Mr B insistently to give her a tummy rub.

Moll is a real individual, strong, fierce and fearless, impatient, extremely loving and with a great sense of humour. I share some of those characteristics (the good ones of course)....

Is it any wonder that she has such a fan club?