Wednesday 13 December 2017

Let it snow..

Not a hint of snow here, but as ever more rain and some very strong winds.

But I'm not writing to have a gripe about the weather but to talk about Potager Garden, a very special place that Tony took me to several years ago. We went for a party of a friend of his, who has a workshop there and , as it was February, it was freezing. The party took place in the cafe which is in a greenhouse type conservatory room that was a little more open to the elements than might have been desired for winter.

Now, the place has been double glazed, though the woodturner is continually lit in winter and all the better for it. I have taken several friends there recently, as part of a walk for the next book, and every time I go I am delighted by it. The garden was a derelict nursery years ago and has been recovered over the years, to form lots of little separate areas where, in summer, people can gather to read, to talk as well as to garden. Dementia groups have started there; a singing workshop was held the other week and a workshop on making wreaths is to follow tomorrow. You can play table tennis, badminton, lounge around in hammocks outside, or just sit and read the papers.

The cafe serves homemade vegetarian food, cooked in the kitchen at the far end of the conservatory, accompanied by cafetieres of coffee and a range of other drinks. It would be quite possible to while away hours here quite happily. But we had a quick coffee and cake stop before doing a walk along to Scott's Quay, a mile or so away, and then back to Constantine over the fields.

It is a secret, magical part of Cornwall where you can rarely see a house, let alone meet anyone. And as we walked along the silent lanes, save for a noisy blackbird or a chatty robin, it made me wonder again at how many different faces of Cornwall I am privileged to see.

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Gloves wanted - for the Invisible Men

In case you can't read the caption, this is the Invisible Man in St Ives the other weekend. You may see the relevance after reading this post.

Last weekend, our musical director asked for donations of gloves, as a friend is volunteering in Calais where there are a thousand people sleeping outside in the freezing cold - it has been snowing. They need gloves, particularly men's gloves, and if anyone could give them to her, she would send them off on Thursday after choir.

Strangely enough, I'd been digging out my gloves as I've started getting chilblains (an occupational hazard for those of us with bad circulation) and found a pair of men's thermal gloves that I'd got for Pip. As his health declined, and due to the medication he was on, he felt the cold more and more, so I was always thinking of ways to keep him warm. For some reason he'd never really taken to the gloves, though he had worn them a few times.

Seeing this post on Facebook, and finding Pip's gloves made me think - well, he would be delighted. So am I - to think that these gloves have been sitting here, unused, for years, and now they can go and help some poor fellow freezing out there and give a little bit of comfort. Well, I can think of no better use for them. And I know Pip would agree.

So please, if you have any spare gloves or anything to help these poor people sleeping outside, do give what you can. Stuff Christmas presents - this is the kind of thing that's really needed.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Ghostly reminders

Facebook has an unnerving habit of picking posts from this date many years ago and reminding me what was going on. Normally I wouldn’t mind - it can be fun, or funny - but this time of year is full of ghosts for me and for some reason, this year they are all out in force.

Paddington 2 was another trigger, for some reason. For those of you who haven’t seen it, I would simply say, do go. The film was as good if not better than the previous Paddington, and although it had been showing at my local cinema for several weeks, we got the last two seats and found we were in a packed screen with no children whatsoever.

All of us wept and laughed and wept again all the way through, and it really is a few hours of honest, heartwarming magic. Also, Paddington has exactly the same stare as MollieDog, which of course made it even more touching for me. There is such a loving and courageous honesty to this little bear (and to Moll) that is unusual in today’s sceptical world, and the film was all the better for it.

But walking home on my own, and returning to a dark, cold flat, made me realise how much I miss having someone to share it with. To get in, have a cuddle and tell them about the film. To cry at the touching bits, and laugh at the hilarious bits. To lie in bed later, hearing the comforting sound of another person breathing next to you. Nowadays I look over at Pip’s picture and wonder if I dreamt those 14 years.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very fortunate. I have some extremely good friends, many of them male. I enjoy my work, and am lucky to be able to survive financially when so many can’t. I have my darling Moll, I love singing with my various groups, and particularly enjoy doing gigs, which are all very good for the soul. I am a healthy, independent woman and I value that highly.

And yet this year more than ever, as the days grow shorter, I am aware of all those whom I have lost at this time of year. My dad died in early January, when I was in my early twenties, and that knocked the stuffing out of Christmas from then on, as far as I was concerned.

Pip died seven years ago on Boxing Day. I lost my brave, funny, charming and Best Cuddler in the World that day. Three years ago, his brother, the lovely Pete, decided to join his brother Pip. I can’t blame him, but we all miss them so much.

And right now, these very special men, whom I have all loved very dearly, are circling round my thoughts. They call out to me in my sleep, and stand at my shoulder while I walk. They sit beside me when I watch TV at night. They remind me that this is part of what love is. If I hadn’t loved them, I wouldn’t be missing them so much now.

I have so much to be grateful for, and yet being on your own, especially at this time of year, when you loved being with your partner, is no joke. So spare a thought for those of us who might seem a bit blotchy eyed or less enthusiastic than others right now. We are just waiting for our ghosts to disperse, and maybe find that other special person to share our time with.

Wednesday 22 November 2017

A winter duvet to warn off the blues

This is the fabulous bronze statue dedicated to all the Newlyn fishermen who have died since the 1980s - far too many of them, sadly. We walked past this on the way to Newlyn a few weekends ago, doing the first walk for my new book.

It's strange how our moods can change, isn't it? Last Thursday I went to an inquest with a dear friend of mine whose partner's son had very sadly committed suicide earlier this year. As you can imagine, it wasn't the most pleasant of ways to spend an afternoon, but no one wants to have to go to those things, let alone on their own, so I was very pleased to be able to offer some moral support. I was very impressed by the professionalism and thoroughness of the investigation, too. They were very sensitive to the witnesses and offered a volunteer in case anyone needed emotional support in the Coroner's office.

The worst part, for me, was coming home to a cold, empty, dark flat. This is one of the times when living on your own isn't much fun, paticularly in winter. I did meet a friend for a drink which cheered me up a bit, but as I lay in bed, on my own, I was very grateful for darling Moll at my feet. And wishing for some strong arms around me.

So the next morning I felt really miserable. About everything really. But I walked Moll, got down to work, and gradually I began to make headway. And that afternoon I went to a friend's for rehearsals for the numbers we were singing at the Looe Literary Festival the following day. Paul greeted me wearing a red patterned fish hat and blue goggles - one of the numbers is an a capella version of Yellow Submarine. And from then on, we had a brilliant time. The rehearsal went well, our singing improved, and then I realised the time, said I'd better walk Moll before it got too dark. "Can I come?" said John. "And me?" added Paul. "And me," said Heather - and so we all set off, Paul in charge, and had the most wonderful walk through a farm, down along fields onto Point Quay where the sky turned rose pink streaked with purple. The reflections of the swans on the river were perfect mirror images. And the trees formed blackened silhouettes against a perfect pearly sky.

We walked back through woods of ochre leaves dimmed by the twilight. As it grew darker, we switched on our torches and shouted out warnings of what to miss - dark and sinister tree trunks, like silent buildings; hidden, huge cow pats, darkened ditches and muddy puddles. And as we walked, our voices rang out in the dark of a Cornish evening and I felt a warm glow, which started from within and spread outwards. What fabulous friends I have, I thought, wrapping this duvet of happiness around me. Isn't singing wonderful?

It's a long time since I realised I was really happy. So whenever I feel down I will reach for that duvet and pull it tight around me, up to my chin so only my nose sticks out. The best way to combat the winter blues.

Tuesday 14 November 2017

Pay it Forward

Today's been one of those grey, dark days when nothing turned out as planned. A meeting that I needed was cancelled this morning, I've had no luck on the work front, and then I had some depressing news via a phone call at lunchtime before I had to go to the hygienist. So you can imagine I wasn't feeling too chirpy.

But I had a lovely weekend in St Ives courtesy of a friend at singing who was going to be away for the weekend and said would I like to use her house while she was away? Viv and I and the dogs set off there and after a few hiccups (couldn't get the key out of the safe, then couldn't get the heating to work), all was well. We had a really relaxing weekend exploring the beaches of St Ives, so we (and I'm including the dogs here) had a brilliant time. And how very generous of this singing friend to let us have her lovely house for two whole days!

Highlights included a very good evening in the pub on Friday night, seeing seals close up on Saturday afternoon, and meeting a bunch of people promoting Cornish apples and Allyn day - they were giving out apples which you must then put under your pillow and you would dream of your sweetheart.

The next morning Viv and I compared notes. "Well?" I said. She grinned. "I had a lousy night, but I can't remember my dreams at all - if I had any." I roared with laughter. "Same here!" She stopped."Do you think that's bad luck then?"

The effects of the weekend wore off rather quickly though, making me realise how much I need a holiday - I haven't had one this year and must make plans for several next year. Anyway, I was walking into Lidls after walking Moll when my phone rang and a dear friend asked me out for a drink tonight. Suddenly, I found I had some energy again.

Then I was loading my shopping into the car when a teenage girl approached me. "Really sorry, but do you think I could borrow your phone to make a call?" she said breathlessly. I'm sorry to say it crossed my mind that she night run off with it, but it's an old phone so no use to a teenager, so I let her ring her mum to get her a lift to go from the car park to work. Her mum wasn't answering so she thanked me and handed the phone back. "She's hopeless at answering the phone," she said. "Oh well, I'd better walk to work."

It turned out that work was a long walk away on foot so I said I'd drive her and she was so pleased. She hopped in, Moll instantly jumped out of her basket and sat on her lap and we set off, out of the car park. Then she suddenly said, "Oh, there she is - my mum!"

So she was able to jump out and go with her mum to work, but as she left she said, "Thank you so much. I'm so glad i met you."
Yes, I thought. I'm really glad I met you, too. At the risk of sounding like some goody two shoes, sometimes when you're feeling miserable, helping someone else can be the key to feeling better.

Friday 10 November 2017

The importance of earwigging

One of the attributes my mother passed on to me is the knack of eavesdropping. This is quite an art, actually - watch my mother as she sits, utterly still. Her whole being concentrated on the person/people at the next table. She will absorb their conversation like osmosis, so that it becomes part of her, enriching her life. Yet she would never betray a confidence - and this is what makes her such a good listener, and why all my friends would come and confide in her. Marriage gone wrong, trouble with children, broken love affairs - they would troop in anxiously, sit down, and talk……She would listen and dispense advice where appropriate.

And all this comes from the ability to really listen to other people. My mum is a pro, and the story goes that when my parents were courting (such a lovely word, rarely used nowadays), my dad had saved up all week to take her out for dinner.

Imagine the scene - sitting at the table, wine glasses full, platefuls of delicious food in front of them. My father leaned forward, to whisper someting lovingly in her ear - when she said, “SSSHHH. I want to know what he says next,” looking at the next table. It is some tribute to my dad that they actually got beyond that date. A tribute to my mum, too, no doubt.

Years later, when I was working in London, I got the coach down to Exeter as this was the cheapest mode of transport, but it broke down three times en route. It was very hot and Dad had asked me to bring a big bag of olives from one of the delicatessens near Berwick Street Market. As the heat increased, the olives emitted a somewhat unsavoury smell, and I was left with the seat next to me empty. All the way.

This was long before the days of mobiles, so I had no way of telling mum that I would be late, so when eventually we arrived, hours late, I expected a very fed up mother. (I’m being polite here. You don’t want to anger my mother.) To my surprise, she greeted me with a kiss and a big hug. “No it was fascinating,” she said. “I sat in the cafe and I got talking to....... and off she went, painting a delicate picture of the finer parts of her companions’ lives.

She taught me to recognise the pitch of a persons’ voice - you can always tell how they’re feeling. Depressed, hungover, tired - voices are sluggish and low, dragging along the ground. As their hopes rise, so do their voices. I’m a prime example here - when I’m excited I almost talk in a Top C.

The other day I was walking Moll along the beach and two women were walking behind me, deep in conversation. I’d worked with one of them, many years ago, and recognised her voice. It carried, clear and true, through the quiet of an autumn afternoon.
“The thing is,” she said to her friend, “He’s the one that's been left behind after thirty years.”
I almost stopped walking, this was such a gem. I held my breath to hear why and where, what. I could almost see my ears flapping. But I carried on walking, head down. As if I wasn't listening.

But there was silence. They must have seen my ears pinned backwards, ready to snap up their every words, like a Venus Flycatcher. Sadly, they moved over to the other end of the beach, stared out to sea and from what I could gather, change the conversation. So I never will know who he was, why he was left, or when…

Then yesterday I went to the corner shop as two students walked in. One was tall, dark haired, the other short and dark. They wore jeans with large (fashionable) holes in. The tall one had a skimpy top that showed her goosebumps. The other one wore a dark green jumper with cuffs that came down over wrists.
“You know,” said the taller one, “I've never seen your arms.”

And if either of those isn't a brilliant start to a short story - or a novel for that matter - I don’t know what is.

Tuesday 31 October 2017


Life recently has been overshadowed by the darker moments of life - losing my lovely, cantankerous, elderly Bussie to begin with. Then Mr B's even older mother would not be hurried onto her next journey, which obviously caused a lot of distress for the family. And while I was writing about organ donation, I had to dip into Pip's last days, which was harrowing to say the least.

It's all served as a reminder of how in life we have to deal with matters that are incredibly hard. And ones that I wish to write about, for I feel they can help others.

Then last Sunday Louis Theroux did a very good documentary on anorexia. Having suffered myself - thankfully a long time ago - it brought back all those terrible feelings of powerlessness, fear and complete lack of self worth. Nowadays the media might be unhelpful in portraying celebrities with supposedly perfect bodies, but most anorexics' problems stem from lack of confidence, a desire to gain some control over their lives. Some may have experienced terrible loss or other unhappiness and find life just too painful; starving yourself brings a certain numbness, and all focus is then drawn in on oneself rather than external factors that might be too difficult to deal with.

I could see Louis Theroux looking completely flummoxed on more than one occasion, for all the women featured were highly intelligent, extremely attractive and very adept at describing their situations. So why would they seek to destroy themselves in such a vicious way? For believe me, anorexia is terrifying. It seizes you with an iron grip that is so, so hard to get out of - think addiction and it's a million times worse than that. I've given up smoking, which is apparently more difficult to give up than heroin, and that was a breeze compared to getting out of the anorexic grip.

But many people - myself included - have found our way out of this stranglehold. it is perfectly possible to live a normal life after an eating disorder. And to be happy. To form good, meaningful relationships, to bear children. But it is so important to get help. And get that help as soon as possible.

So if you know of anyone who has an eating disorder, it is vitally important that they get help soon. I know only too well how difficult it can be to persuade an anorexic to get help, but be patient. Contact BEAT. Do what you can. For I wouldn't wish anorexia on my worst enemy. And it's one of the few reasons I am glad I don't have children - at least I don't have to go through what my poor mum went through all those years of my life that were ruled by this miserable condition.

Wednesday 18 October 2017


Apologies for absence - life has been even busier than usual, with a lot of work, finishing and sending my latest book, WALKS IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF DAPHNE DU MAURIER to my publishers. I've also been doing a brush up journalism course which has been brilliant but very challenging, and writing a piece on organ donation, something I feel very strongly about. Writing this took me back - by request from the editor - to when Pip was dying which was a very harrowing experience. However, if it can help others then it will be worth it.

I've also got a contract for my new book, to be about Rosamunde Pilcher who I interviewed several years ago. A wonderful lady, very interesting, with a brain much sharper than my own despite her 90 years. And on top of that I've been doing lots of singing, meeting up with dear friends, and seeing a few films.

So life might be busy and sometimes exhausting but it is fun and rewarding, for which I am very grateful. I'm off to sing in Truro tonight and have been aware of how joyous singing can be. We rehearsed on Monday and Tuesday afternoons and it was fabulous to hear our different voices mingling together, of seeing a few friends that I hadn't met up with for a while - and then having a beautiful cliff walk with Heather and Moll afterwards.

Several friends have poorly relations who need looking after, and I am becoming aware of my own age creeping up. In the past I have found myself in a rut, not sure or not knowing which way to turn which is not a good place to be.

Recently, as I have become busier, it has made me very aware of how precious life is, and how we need to not only look after ourselves, but make the most of every single day. And I leave you with some very cute cows, wanting their pictures taken.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Saying goodbye

The call came at about 9pm on Sunday evening. A strange male, wanting to speak to Mrs Jackson. "We have your cat Buster here, and he's not at all well," he said.

It turned out that someone had handed a very poorly Bussie in to the vets earlier that evening. He'd been found in someone's overgrown garden, where he was hiding in an old greenhouse. I won't go into the details, as I find them too upsetting, but he wasn't well and hadn't eaten for a week. They suspected he had organ failure and was refusing food.

While I was so glad that he'd been found, it broke my heart to think of him all alone in someone's garden, unable to move. (Don't go there.) And I was really worried how ill he'd look, given the descriptions of him.

He was wrapped in a towel when I got there and screamed loudly when I walked in (nothing wrong with his vocal chords then) and began to purr when I stroked him and talked to him, foolishly as we do. "Why didn't you ring me, darling?" I said, tears streaming down my face. This lovely, impossible, stubborn feline that has been part of my life for nearly twenty years.

There wasn't really any decision to be made about his future. They'd already printed off the consent form which i signed, not really reading it. No, I didn't want his body, I had nowhere to bury it. I didn't want his ashes either (I've still got some of Pip's and had visions of my bedroom becoming an ashes closet - how macabre would that be?) - I have many, many memories of The Big Fella.

The ending was quiet, peaceful. Well, apart from me weeping copiously but I stroked him all the time, whispered more nothings but along the lines of "I'm here. I love you," just as I had with Pip. And that was a final farewell.

Apart from the bill which was so unexpectedly huge that I went into complete shock (well, I was halfway there anyway).

Since then I've been staggering around feeling exhausted, muzzy headed, unable to think clearly. In need of comfort reading. Al took us for a sail yesterday and we sailed miles out into Falmouth Bay, with me on the helm, the spinnaker ballooning majestically out as we sped along, the land slipping away from us. Gulls wheeled overhead; a cormorant flew low over the waves before diving cleanly down without a splash. AT one with nature, the elements, my head emptied out until I was nothing.

But in a corner of my beach garden now sits a little china Bussie, on top of one of the chunks of driftwood. He's facing into the sun at the moment, for he always loved to sunbathe in the mornings. But I shall move him round, depending on the weather, so he has a change of view. Thanks darling Bussie, and I hope you enjoy your new home.

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Bussie Buss

This is my favourite picture of Bussie (the cat) asserting his rights with the infuriating dog that had arrived to interrupt his life, demanding far too much attention.

Bussie didn't have the best start in life - he and his sister were abandoned over Christmas and deposited on the door of the vet in Tuckingmill, near Camborne. My last cat had had to be put down just after Christmas and I spent a week weeping and scouring all the rescue centres in Cornwall. Then the receptionist at work rang to say she'd found these two kittens, so we took our lunch hour at 10am and raced over to Tuckingmill to collect them. She'd already reserved the tabby so I was left with this bruiser of a black and white kitten who, when we arrived at Pip's workshop, exploded out of the cardboard box they were in, and landed on Pip's jumper, just like a cartoon cat.

He was the most strong minded, bloody minded cat I have ever come across (and I've had lots of cats) with the most imperturbable expression. His nose was severely put out of joint when Moll came along, but they've managed to rub along over the last 12 years, largely by ignoring each other - they were never going to be friends, but of an evening I can be found with the cat on one side of me on the sofa and the dog on the other, watching telly or reading.

On Sunday I fed both the animals and settled down for the night. Next morning, I got up to feed Moll which is when Bussie would lever his aged joints out of the bunk and patter along the hall to join us in the kitchen.

But there was no sign of him - or in the bunks. He had become very fond of his food in latter years, so this was unheard of. I thought he'd appear later in the day but he didn't, and despite calling, checking in garage, bins, along the roads and telling the neighbours, there is on sign of Bussie anywhere.

Years ago he wasn't well and just took himself off to another garden where he hunkered down until we found him and got him to the vet. This time, I think he has gone off to meet his maker. And I don't blame him. When my time comes, that's what I'd like to do. I only wish he'd told me first so we could have said goodbye.

So this is my farewell note to you, Bussie. Thanks for all the company over the years, Big Fella. It's too quiet with just the two of us now - even if you didn't say much, your presence was all around. I'll miss you my black and white mate. Go and give Pip a good cuddle from me.

Friday 8 September 2017

Stowe Barton and beach garden

This is the beautiful Stowe Barton, that features in The King's General by Daphne du Maurier - and provides the last walk of my book about her. It's near Kilkhampton - Bude way - and we did a mammoth walk there a few weeks ago.

It took us 5 hours to do this walk but the walk for the book won't be quite as long - we did do a detour via the beautifully named Duckpool just below King William Woods, and then we chatted to the current tenant of Stowe Barton which was fascinating - she runs it as a B&B so if you fancy some walking on the North Cornwall coast, it's well worth a visit. The original house was lived in by the Grenville family, but was derelict when Angela and her husband moved in - they have done a fabulous job restoring it to its former glory.

We stayed at Higher Horslett farm which was amazing - an old farmhouse where we were made to feel so welcome, and part of the family, that it's definitely worth a return visit.

ON my return home, we decided to redo the bit of lawn in the front. Some friends dug it out and took the topsoil away, then we put a membrane down, got some gravel delivered, and are now making a beach garden. As storms are forecast this weekend, this could be a good time to do some beach combing to add to it....

Thursday 24 August 2017

Sing, sing, sing, walk, walk, walk....

Last week my smaller singing group (Semi Quavers) took part in Akoostica, an open mic night at the Compton Castle floating boat in Truro, and so enjoyed it, despite battling there in teeming rain. Everyone was incredibly complimentary about our singing, has asked us to come back and so we are now looking to get more paid gigs.

Then on the Friday night, our musical director Claire Ingleheart organised a singing and supper evening - 50 of us had a workshop for an hour and a half, which flew by, then a fantastic meal at the Eco park at Porthtowan, then sang for another hour or so round the camp fire. We had such a good time I didn\t want to stop singing. And Mr B and several other men, who hadn't sung since school, so enjoyed it - it was brilliant to see new people, singing their hearts out while the flames flickered, lighting up their beaming faces, and stars peeked out of the inky sky to see what we were doing.

This weekend we are singing at the Penryn Town Fair, then on Sunday at the Wadebridge Folk Festival - a big event in the folk calendar, so we're really excited about that. I'm then going on to stay near Bude - as Wadebridge is sort of half way there - to do the last walk for my Daphne du Maurier book. Well, there is another one I need to redo at least part of , and take pictures, as we had torrential rain for the last two hours of that one.

So hopefully September - or maybe beginning of October - will see my Du Maurier manuscript winging its way to the publishers before I start thinking about the next book. I hope, as the Semi Quavers, we can also get some paid gigs. So winter watch out, here we come!

I just need to start earning some money now....

Wednesday 2 August 2017

Who'd write walks eh?

This almost hidden public footpath sign was on our way to Penrose, a beautiful old farm in the parish of Sennen (not to be confused with the Penrose near Helston). We did this walk on Saturday as I am keen to finish the Du Maurier walks book and only have two more walks to do - this being one of them.

Although the forecast was for rain, we decided to be optimistic and I drove over to Heather's house, and she drove down to Treen from there. The first two hours of the walk were good - it is a very unspoilt, undiscovered part of Cornwall, and we walked along happily, not meeting a soul.

Then the rain started. We got lost. The rain got heavier, but we persevered, rain running down our faces, despite coats and hoods. "It's fine as long as you keep walking," we agreed.

Having been chased by a field of frisky heifers, then later an even friskier horse, the rain abated, then gathered full force, until we were walking, sodden, cold, human beings.

Four hours later we got back to the car, drove back to Heather's then I drove home from there, very glad to change, warm up and have something to eat. And despite the fact that I will have to go back and do it again as it was too wet to take pictures, and a few parts of the walk could be improved upon, it was brilliant. Even Heather wants to do it again.

The next day, the forecast was thunderstorms and rain, so I packed up my wet weather gear and off we went. By the time we got to Mullion the sun was out and I cursed myself for not bringing sunglasses. You can never tell in Cornwall!

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Singing for the Soul

The last week or so I haven't been feeling myself at all. I know we all get difficult times, but it's not like me to feel exhausted all the time, and lacking in inspiration, in belief in myself.

So I very nearly didn't go on our singing boat trip to St Makes last night. But I'm so glad I did. We all took a bowl of food, cutlery and a plate/bowl and met on Prince of Wales Pier at 6.45pm. Then we boarded the boat and set off for St Mawes, via Gylly and Maenporth beaches, cruising along the coast while we laid food on a big table for all to share.

As it was a beautiful evening, some of us sat on deck in the sunshine and ate up there, dodging low flying hungry seagulls and chatting in the sunshine.

Then at 8pm we arrived in St Mawes and took up our station outside the St Mawes hotel where we sang for an hour.

At 9pm we headed back to the boat and sang our way back to Falmouth, finishing the last of the food and enjoying drinks from the bar.
It was a really special experience to sail past the docks while it grew dark, singing our hearts out.
And I went to bed feeling well sung and grateful to have such amazing singing friends, and to be able to have a night out like this in such a beautiful part of the world. It has restored my faith.

Friday 14 July 2017

Magical Cornwall

This was Gwynver beach the other day - having been to the Rosudgeon car boot sale, we felt in need of cooling off a bit, so searched for a dog friendly beach near to Penberth Cove, where I was due to do a walk for the book, and headed for Gwynver.

We parked on the cliffs above Sennen and scrambled down over the dunes, to the coastal footpath, where we saw these amazing, brilliantly coloured emerald beetles.
Any idea what they are?

Then we headed down to the beach for a swim, wishing we'd bought the surfboards. Even so, we had a brilliant time while Moll tried to dig to Australia.

By the time we left the beach, ran back to the van to avoid getting a parking ticket (how quickly those two hours went) and headed back to start our walk, we were eaten alive by some incredibly vicious horseflies and are now covered in bites. So the walk has been postponed till next week.

We sat on the rocks at Porch Nanven as the tide came in, cooled off in the river and then had fish and chips in St Just on the way home. One really magical day when you wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else...

Tuesday 27 June 2017


Last weekend Viv and I were fortunate enough to do a review at Trelowarren, the ancient estate that has been in the Vyvyan family for over six centuries, though the house dates back to the 1400s. Coming down the drive you really feel as if you're leaving the rest of the world behind and entering a private world of ancient Cornish beauty, peaceful and serene.

There are numerous beautifully restored and maintained cottages on the estate, but we stayed in one of the eco friendly lodges, which are spacious, very luxurious and warm, and feature local oak and granite. Ours had its own private garden and terrace at the back with a table and chairs for enjoying the evening sun which we were able to do the first evening.

After that, the weather deteriorated, but I interviewed Lady Vyvyan on the Saturday morning, which was fascinating. She has letters from Clara Vyvyan who was a great friend of Daphne du Maurier, so we had a lot to talk about for my next book. We explored the woods, did the Halliggye walk, and then had a fabulous meal at the New Yard restaurant on the Saturday night.

We didn't have time to try the heated outdoor pool, nestling in the walled kitchen garden - well, we did, but it was windy and raining so we were a bit wimpy, but we did look in the gallery and crafts centre and the spa looked amazing too.

So if you're in Cornwall, near Helston, do visit Trelowarren. To truly appreciate it you have to stay there, but do call in for a bit of ancient Cornish magic.

Thursday 15 June 2017

Falmouth Classics and Sea Shanty Festival

This weekend it's Falmouth Classics weekend, when masses of beautiful vintage sailing boats come to Falmouth from all over the world to race in our lovely waters. Well, Falmouth Bay and the Carrick Roads. I shan't be out on the water this year, but will be watching from the shore, and meeting the editor of Classic Boat tomorrow night as well. He's having a few trips on board various boats, but I was invited on one on Sunday which I can't do as this weekend also coincides with the Sea Shanty Festival, and I'm singing on Sunday afternoon.

I don't know how many different sea shanty groups will be singing this year - each year it gets bigger, with more and more venues - so I shall be singing a lot, and on Sunday afternoon, the Suitcase Singers will be singing outside Roly's Fudge shop (!!) from 3-4pm - just before the festival winds up at 5pm.

So if any of you are in the Falmouth area, come along and see us. have a pint or two and listen to the hundreds of different singers in our town.
And this is a picture from the woods near St Nectan's Glen - a walk last Sunday for the new book....

Wednesday 7 June 2017

The Great Estate

This was me, taken by my very talented friend Carol, reading out a bit from my most recent book, Walks in the Footsteps of Poldark, at the Great Estate festival at Scorrier last weekend.

This was a new festival and although I hadn't seen that much publicity about it, there evidently was more than enough, as all the car parks were jammed, including the overflow ones and those for campervans and motorhomes - overall they had over 13,000 people, many of whom weren't even from Cornwall.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, and met some fellow writers on the Saturday to see where we'd be performing that afternoon and, in my case, Sunday morning - in the Dead Beat Poet's Corner, next to the Secret Gin Garden. The picture taken above was me reading on Sunday when I sold some books, inspired others to read the Poldark books, and was delighted by the dear mates and strangers who turned up. Even better, I've been booked in for next year, so looking forward to that...

After that, myself and two other friends did some busking and really enjoyed that - one fellow stopped to listen to us and said, "I got some second hand clothes, and now hearing your beautiful singing, that's made my festival!" so we're on to do some more performing when Heather gets back from her travels.

On Monday we were hit by gale force winds and torrential rain and I did an interview with BBC Radio Cornwall (by phone thankfully) to promote the reissue of my first book, Discover Cornwall, which sold out the first print run. It's now got a much brighter cover, updated walks and new pictures so we're pleased with that.

Apart from a really sore back - I'm sitting here with a bag of frozen spinach pressed against my lower back - I'm now trying to get some other work. And preparing for our gig at the Sea Shanty Festival in 10 days time..... in between showers!

Wednesday 31 May 2017

Last Friday we sweltered in the most glorious weather, walking at Loe Bar near Helston, then froze on Sunday, but in between we did a gig at Truro cathedral which is such an amazing place to sing - the acoustics are superb, and it was a real honour to sing there.

Tonight we're singing at Trebah Gardens and next weekend I am giving a talk at the Great Estate Festival at Scorrier, and am also doing some busking with two other friends. None of this is paid, but I do get free tickets to the festival which is worth a lot, and it's all about getting my books out there and making friends and meeting people.

Heather and I went over to Scorrier yesterday to check out the gardens and see where we're going to be performing, and it's just how you would imagine a huge, rambling, secret garden. Perfect!

Last weekend, as I was asked to review a hotel, I took a friend who's just celebrated a special birthday, and organised a secret party for her which, I'm relieved to say, went very well. You never know with surprises!

Pictures to follow, but in the meantime here's another...

Wednesday 24 May 2017


Above picture of Moll on a staddle stone near Castle an Dinas.

Last year my kitchen flooded in those flash floods we had in September, and a friend suggested I claim off the insurance. So a very kindly fellow came round and said they couldn't pay more than £300 but it would help with the cost of a new carpet or flooring, so I said yes thanks. And now I really wish I hadn't. My insurance has gone up from £300 to £800 - that was the best quote. The others were over £1,000. And all because of a £300 claim???

I'm still arguing the toss, of course, but am reeling from shock.

Apart from that, life is busy doing another walk for the book, preparing for the Great Estate Festival at Scorrier the first weekend in June(doing a talk/chat and singing), and then singing at the Sea Shanty Festival the following weekend. All a lot of fun and will hopefully sell some books, but not bringing much money in. Still, life has to be enjoyed. I must just try harder to earn the insurance money....!

Tuesday 16 May 2017


I’m anxiously scanning the forecast to see when I can do the next walk…… whereas Madam is just rearranging her profile...

As I write, there is a steady and persistent drizzle that has now turned into a deluge, but for most of April the weather was beautifully sunny, so I’m hoping that once the much needed rain has gone through, we will resume the cheerier weather.

I’ve been able to get several walks done for the Daphne du Maurier book, which has been lovely - in particular a walk at Tywardreath a month ago, with Deb and Rich. I’d originally done this walk years ago on a freezing, March day and what a difference, doing it in spring sunshine! We ended up at the New Inn at Tywardreath where we met a geocaching friend of Rich’s who told us some fascinating historical facts about the area.

Last weekend I did a review up at Doublebois where we explored the area - not one I know at all - which provides some fascinating and diverse walking. On the Sunday we headed up to Altarnun to do a walk for the book and were blessed with sunny skies by the time we got there, and did the entire walk in shorts and t shirts.
Even better, I went into the church at the end of the walk and found a brass plaque dedicated to one John Kittow who had donated the pulpit in the church, apparently.

Wednesday 3 May 2017


I’ve done a few reviews recently which has been wonderful and unexpected. Several years ago I used to review dog friendly accommodation for Your Dog magazine for a supplement they ran, but they’ve stopped doing that now. I had some terrific mini-adventures, as we never knew where we would end up, what it would be like, who we’d meet and where we’d go.

So it was a shame that came to an end. By the way, I don’t get paid for reviews - the deal usually is that you get a free meal/stay somewhere and in return you write a glowing account of their pub/restaurant/hotel/cottage and organise some stunning pictures.

Nowadays I write occasional reviews for the website which is for people who don’t want to fly when they go on holiday - an excellent idea, not only for the environment but for those who (like Peter de Savary), hate flying.

But a few weeks ago I was asked to review some pubs/restaurants for a Cornish publication, and had a brilliant meal over at the Traveller’s Rest at Trevarrian, near Newquay airport. Even better, it was a fabulous day so Viv and I had a wonderful two hour scamper over the coastal footpath there in Mediterranean sunshine - see picture above.

I was then approached by the PR of a hotel group asking if I’d like to review a few hotels - one night in each plus dinner, B&B, so Deb and I headed off to Padstow last week for a night in the Metropole hotel which was fabulous. We - by which I include Moll - were given a friendly welcome, had bags carried, a special dog pack in the room, and fantastic food and walks.

I’ve got another review coming up near Liskeard, in a chalet near Bodmin Moor, and another possible hotel one coming up. As I’m not likely to get a holiday this year - or at least, not until autumn - these mini breaks are a really lovely way of breaking up the everyday.

So I count myself very lucky - as do the friends that accompany me!
Enys Gardens, by the way - not on a review, but with my Meetup friends.