Monday, 30 March 2020

The New Normal

So. We are all trying to adjust to a new way of life since partial lockdown was announced last Monday.

I really miss our morning walk, but figure that I'd rather have something to look forward to later on in the day, so we have our walk in the afternoon and Moll has found this equally confusing - dogs like habits but she is adjusting, bless her.

I have started preparing the walls of my back yard ready for painting - which badly needs doing - and it will be a lot brighter as a result even if I can only go up to as far as I can reach. It's also been good for me as when my friends upstairs are also outside painting, we can have good chats at a safe distance - they're up a flight of steps on the next level. So I've had a bit of company on those days which is good.

Otherwise, thank god I have the novel to work on, although some days that's hard. In fact, everything is hard but it is for all of us. As has been said before, this is a great leveller.

One good thing to have come out of it is that although I couldn't get to see my Mum - the lockdown came in force just as I was about to go up, but she'd already said No I'd rather you didn't come - I am ringing her every other day which seems to really cheer her up. I sent her flowers last week instead of for Mother's Day which was a much nicer surprise (she did get a card on The Day) and she rang last night, absolutely delighted. I suppose since we're all isolated now, for some reason this has broken down barriers between us.

Since Pip died, and being involved with someone who was away a lot, I was very aware of not having a partner around all the time, compared to my brothers who have both been married for a long time. (And of not having children but we won't delve into that Pandora's Box.) Now all that is irrelevant. You could say that while I don't have company as I would if I had a partner living here, at least I have lots of friends to talk to when I want to. So while I am alone it is a very different sort of alone-ness to missing being with someone, if that makes sense.

The divorce rate in China has rocketed over the past few months - no surprises there - and I know of at least one good friend who would rather not be in lockdown with the person she's with. So at least I don't have that problem.

And yes, I wish sincerely that I did have someone to go through this with, but life isn't like that at the moment so we have to make the best of what we have. I can look out of the window at fabulous views. Spring is really on its way. I can dream of the walks I will do when we are safe to go out freely again. I can walk to the castle or the seafront. And I am learning to like myself more. As a wonderful veteran said on the radio this morning, "If you can't get on with yourself, who else can?"

I know the coming weeks and months will be very testing. We will all be going stir crazy at times, frightened and angry and frustrated, lonely and miserable. But maybe some of us will learn more about ourselves, which could be interesting.

I'm wondering what lessons we will learn from this time? Or will we just go back to how we were before? It will be interesting to see, long term.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Brave New World

It seems incredible to think how quickly everything has changed. A few weeks ago I was out in Spain having the most amazing writing retreat. Now - well, I worry for the lovely people who run the Finca. They must be so concerned.

Every time I turn on the radio, TV or look on social media, there is almost nothing but news of CV19 which I find makes me very anxious. I’ve got that horrible swirling in my stomach and I find it difficult to eat. I'm exhausted by it all and very fearful, like most of us, particularly those of us who live on our own.

We all have our different ways of coping. I’m not in denial, but I listen to the news headlines to see what might affect me, and those of my nearest and dearest, and then I turn it off. To listen or watch endless statistics make me so fearful and that isn’t good for me or anyone else. I fully respect others react differently, but I don’t think it’s healthy just to focus on this virus for 24 hours a day.

We have lives that we have to live and for the moment that is the challenge - to figure out how to cope with self isolation and panic buying. How we can support each other, and keep fit at the same time.

In amongst the tales of bare supermarket shelves and widespread panic, rising statistics and the economy flatlining, are wonderful stories of how people are helping each other. People playing ping pong out of balcony windows in Italy, singing out into the darkness. Pubs and cafes offering takeaways.

Pip’s old local, the Seven Stars in Falmouth, is offering to deliver beer and prescriptions to those who are self isolating. My vet will post medication and say if you’d rather wait in your car until your appointment is ready, they will ring you. Endless shops in Falmouth are offering deliveries (not then supermarkets). Becky Wass has been delivering postcards around the town so that people who are on their own can give their details and post it through a neighbour's door if they need help or just contact.

I'm getting together a group of friends so we can keep in touch, share shopping, dog walking, visit those we can, and enjoy walks or other ways of keeping fit.

Being a writer I'm fortunate in that I'm used to working in isolation. I will really miss going out of the house to meet friends for drinks or coffee, though we can still walk and need to for our dogs. It all feels very surreal, and we have to get used for that for a while.

The most important thing, and this is very closely with the Connecting Lives organisation I am involved with - do look up their website - is helping those who are depressed and isolated. That may be you or me, our neighbours or anyone.

We all need to remember, or think of how there are so many little ways in which we can help each other keep strong, keep sane and keep safe.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Writing retreat

Well, it was one of the most stunning locations I've ever seen. That's what hit me at first. Having lived most of my life near the sea, I'm not used to those vast open expanses of mountain and they awed me, they spoke to me, they humbled me and I couldn't take my eyes off them.

The finca we stayed in was superb - a 200 year old place that had been lovingly restored and supplied comfort, relaxation with a lot of careful thought and consideration. The food was great - buffets of fresh fruit, cheese and ham etc for breakfast, gorgeous platefuls of fresh salad and wonderful cold concoctions for lunch, and for dinner - well, who knew?

And that's all before we got to the writing which was a tight timetable, but gave us plenty of workshops and one-to-one sessions, as well as time to read out and share our work with the other writers in the early evenings. Plus time to work on our own novels. Our tutor was Rosanne Ley, not only bestselling author of many novels, but a bloody good teacher!

I hit a very low spot half way through where I couldn't see where to go with my plot - well, I knew had to simplify it but nothing was making sense - and after a few sleepless nights, I cracked it. Plus we had an amazing workshop where one of my main characters suddenly leapt into life - boy that was brilliant, if harrowing.

The people were a lovely lot, all writing different things, and we left as good friends, which is how these sort of things should be, I imagine.

So I left on a wobbly high, if there is such a thing. I wasn't sure how I'd feel when I got home but surprisingly, I feel really fired up again. The enthusiasm and self belief that I'd lost has inched up a notch and my confidence is a lot better. More to the point, I am loving writing the novel again, even though i'm aware it will need a lot more editing.

So I would say, if you get the chance - go on this retreat at the Finca El Cerillo. It will be one of the most memorable experiences of your writing life.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Writing retreat - can we fly?

I'm getting so excited over our writing retreat - though keeping a wary eye on the weather, in case the next storm prevents us from flying (oh, please no!) Anyway, I have a pile of stuff next to my case as I'm not sure what to take and keep on thinking of things I should print off that I want to discuss. The synopsis for my novel, being one as I've rewritten the beginning and will need to rewrite bits as I go along, and need a slightly different ending.

WE were sent the timetable last week which made it all seem more exciting and plenty to work on which I'm really looking forward to.

Last weekend, being deluged by Dennis, I saw two films. On Saturday it was so depressing and beastly we thought we'd go for some animal love, so went to see Dolittle and laughed, cried and really loved it. It also covered various elements of mental health - fear, isolation, grief, loneliness, panic attacks, lack of confidence, low self esteem, in a very palatable way. And my god we felt good when we came out!

The same could not be said for Parasite. You know, the one that won all the Oscars. Well, being of an overly sensitive nature, I didn't realise what was in store (I had only skimmed through one review, silly me) and both Jac and I were hiding at the end. I won't ruin it for anyone that hasn't seen it, but if you're of a nervous disposition, don't go. I had four hours sleep that night. Yes, it's a very clever plot etc. but not what I felt like at the moment. Mind you, Viv loved it, so each to their own.

I'm realising the value of holidays. I know it's obvious, and when I first started working for myself, and got incredibly stressed trying to manage money, work flow etc., someone said, "Just because you freelance doesn't mean you shouldn't have holidays. You should try and have a break every three months - take four weeks off at least just as you would if you had paid holidays." And for many years I did that.

But over the past few years, the reviews have disappeared (mostly thanks to Tripadvisor etc.) and somehow so did the holidays and I felt really wretched last year. So now, although being on my own now means not having a partner to go away with, I have met a few others who would like to go away with me. So I intend to make up for lost time, have some fun and R&R as well as hard work on this one. And next year I will plan more jaunts as well. And maybe I'll meet someone (male I mean) who'd like to go away with me.

I'm sitting here thinking, "this time in four days we'll be there!" or at least, I bloody hope so. If not, I shall be stranded at Bristol airport. Or wending our way home to celebrate my birthday in Cornwall. And much though I love my home, I'd really rather have that week in Spain. So keep your fingers crossed....

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Surprise Presents

Having hobbled around like the hunchback of Notre Dame for a week (well, I wasn't bent over quite like that, but you get the picture), thank god my shin is a lot less painful albeit a jaundiced yellow colour, and my ankle is bearing the remains of a blue black bruise, but I am mobile again - hooray!

So I am able to start looking forward to my Spanish writing retreat (to give it its full title). Or I was, until a friend said, "I hope you don't have snow, and are able to get to Bristol airport." Then I met another friend whose partner was due to fly to Alicante last Sunday only to find the plane couldn't land because of high winds, so that holiday's postponed for two weeks. This is making me a little jittery, but what will be, and all that.

The good news is that I've started editing the novel again which is a terrifying but a great relief to get going again. As I was trying to explain to a friend, the only thing you can do as a writer is keep going. If you stop, you're immediately plagued with monumental insecurities, self doubt, collapse of self esteem, convinced that every word you write is rubbish. And the longer you don't do it, the worse it gets. He said he thought it was the same with art - you just have to keep going. Well, I know we all need a breather to recharge our batteries, but you get the gist of what I mean.

This will be a brief burst as I'm off to the hygienist and dentist - double whammy but I hope only a check up. Anyway, as Spain looms ever nearer, I'm starting to get excited. I will also have my birthday out there, and a dear friend who won't see me before I go, turned up at French last night with my birthday present, bless her.

It was beautifully nestled in one of those present bags - you know the type I mean, with tissue paper on top. "Don't peek!" she cried, as I did precisely that. "Pack it carefully and take it with you." Well, I managed to resist until I got home and then I not only peeked but took everything out and had a look and am delighted. Notebooks, pencils, pencil case, everything I need for my writing holiday. And they are planning a French birthday party for when I come back.

So while I was quietly thinking, tomorrow is Valentines Day and it will be the first Valentines for 24 years that I don't get a card, well at least I can spin out my birthday for a while... Meanwhile, here is my Valentine. Shame she won't send me a card...

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Curved Balls and all that

I've been quiet on the blog front because I had a streaming cold shortly after writing the last post, and well, to be honest, I felt really down in January. I'm not usually a down person (though I have suffered from chronic depression in the past, so try not to let it get that bad again). But the past few months have been more challenging than normal.

Having been on my own for a while now, I thought I'd try internet dating. Well, that has been one of the most demoralising procedures I've gone through recently. And at a time when my self esteem has been at an all time low, the last thing I needed was to be kicked in the teeth, so I've abandoned that for the time being. A friend and I decided to join a walking group, and there's one that meets weekly specifically for single people, so we thought we'd do that. Except that she has a terrible lurgy and I've hit another bit of bad luck of which more later.

However, I got over the lurgy, and then hit a big problem with my latest walks book. That is still ongoing but I have help in the shape of the guy I work for, who is helping me look into it all. Really, he is like a Guardian Angel and I am so grateful to have him to help fight my corner.

But I have finally got comments back from my mentor on the novel so I am processing those and can get going on that in the near future. And another lovely thing - I have been invited to Portugal for a week at the end of May. This was dependent on my dear friends having Moll and as they're also having her when I go to Spain in a few weeks, I was wary of imposing. However, they've said yes, so I can have two holidays this year. After none last year, I am so excited and delighted!

So life is looking up. Or it was, until I fell over last week taking the immobiliser key out of the van, tripped and cracked my shin on the granite pavement. To say it is painful is an understatement. I did something similar many years ago and it took about six weeks to heal properly. I'm hoping it won't take quite as long as of course I have Moll to walk which makes life difficult and also means I can't go off meeting new men (I wish) on the weekly walks. But that is to come.
At the moment I'm hobbling round and have to sit with it up a lot. I've had it checked over and unfortunately bad bone bruising just does take a long time to get better. It's also very tiring, but there's nothing more I can do about it except rest when necessary and keep the wound clean.

On our way back from a meeting, hey Guardian Angel said I needed some love in my life and how about dating? I explained how awful it had been, but that I'd thought I'd try these weekly walks, which seem a good way of meeting people with no pressure. And of course walking the dogs. Except that decent walks are out of the question a the moment as my leg's too painful.

So I feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland at the moment - as the Red Queen said, you have to run as fast as you can to stay on the same spot, and faster than that if you want to go anywhere.

But just think - two holidays abroad! For the first time ever, I think. I can't wait......And as my GA said, "maybe you'll meet a man in Spain, or Portugal? As long as they put you first..." Well, exactly. So who knows what's ahead?

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

We've had several days of beautiful weather, so I've made the most of it by doing several walks for the new book.

On Sunday Jacqui and Daisy Dog came with me and Moll to Porthleven on a day when the sky was a perfect, cloudless, Wedgewood blue. It was so warm we walked in jumpers (well, I was wearing a thermal vest underneath my layers).
Then yesterday I picked Fiona up in Helston and we headed down to St Just where we had a coffee and shared delicious sweet potato cake at the Dog and Rabbit which is fast becoming my favourite cafe ever. Just as well it's an hour's drive away or I'd live in there. But the real reason was to do a walk down to Cape Cornwall, round to Carn Gloose and then back to St Just, which we did in again lovely weather - not as sunny but still dry which was so much appreciated.

I have Jacqui and Fiona to thank for photos as my phone won't now download photos onto my iMac which is a pain for someone who relies on using photographs. Also it's stopped telling me when I have texts. So it appears I need to get another second hand but newer phone. I did do a recce on Monday and was going to shoot down into town to get it sorted today but I've got one of those irritating colds where I just feel worn out and can't get warm.

So as the forecast for the next week or so is - shall we say - not inspiring - I will leave the phone for another day.

This time of year is always rather like wading through treacle, I find, and this year is no exception. I long to wake up with my usual bounce, longing to start writing again. But my novel is on hold until I await further comments. Once I am able to get going on that, I will find myself again, I'm sure.

In the meantime, the days really are getting longer. Not long now till Spring...

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Week Seven ...

Well this morning I am going to pick up the van, and my garage have said they are 99% sure that it is fixed. The problem has been intermittent trouble from the dash pod, they believe. But just in case, I asked them to fit an isolator switch for the battery. Call my cynical, but we're on Week Seven of Van Gate and I am not leaving anything to chance.

I'm also being taken to see a friend's mate who's a mechanical electrician, so he's going to look at the van on Friday morning and see if he can figure out the problem.

And while I'm sorry to bang on about Van Gate, it has really been getting me down. I feel as drained as the poor battery. But when I got the phone call to say the van was ready to pick up, my spirits shot up. Admittedly, the sun is shining which is a rarity at the moment, but the prospect of the van actually being FIXED - well, I felt this massive burden being lifted. Possibly.
I was thinking, as I walked Moll earlier, how lovely it would be not to have to worry about my van. I'm so fond of it - it's a real workhorse and has seen me and Pip through all sorts of crazy camping, different ideas of Pip's, and subsequently, since then, has felt like a benevolent older brother looking after me. (Well, until now, poor thing.)

So I will be more than delighted if this is the end of the road for this particular misadventure. I could feel my confidence, which has been trodden on severely over the last few weeks, pick up its head and shake itself, like a Peter Pan shadow. If I can once again rely on my trusty friend, we can soon be ready to fly out of the window again, into NeverLand. Well, maybe. I mustn't get too hopeful. I don't want to be disappointed again....

Everything recently has been on hold so it would be great to get going again, workwise and everything wise. We did do walk at Cot Valley on Friday which was great, so that's another for the book, and yesterday I was researching an artist called Gill Watkiss whose work I love. I met a friend for a drink in the evening and she brought along a friend who I'd met before - who turns out to be Gill Watkiss's daughter! Now isn't that a wonderful Cornish coincidence? It cheered me no end.

The only other spanner in the works is that my phone, which I use for taking pictures for my books, has decided it's too old to download pictures onto my iMac. The frustrating thing is that the phone works fine, but I do need to be able to use the camera. So it's finding another second hand phone. SIGH....
This wonderful tortoise was spotted on our walk last Friday. What a clever critter...

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

2020 Here We Come

Well, I had the quietest New Year's Eve and beginning of the new year ever, due to a tummy bug. No hangovers here, she says smugly, though I would rather have - I had to be taken home at 8.45 on New Year's Eve and put to bed. What a killjoy!

So I had a very sober, very quiet start to the year - and very little food as I wasn't up to it. (No, I know - me not eating!) But we did see Cats - liked the costumes, choreography was good and so was make up but wasn't too taken with the rest of it. Little Women was very good, but I enjoyed that very much and of course all the struggle about becoming a writer had special meaning for me. Next on the list is Jo Jo Rabbit, this weekend. I love going to the cinema, particularly at this time of year, and being able to walk down the hill, get cheap seats (there are advantages to being over 60) and cheap drinks make it all a cheap afternoon or evening out. A lovely bit of escapism.

However with low energies, it's been difficult to get going this year. Mind you, I always find this a peculiar time of year when my energies are always depleted, so I'm hoping that I will soon be firing on all cylinders again and start planning my writing schedules, looking forward to my writing holiday in February and planning our next French break. Having had no break longer than 4 days last year (which was mostly spent in a garage in Bude), I am hoping to get more in the way of time off this year.

As for the van - well, it was towed off to the garage yesterday and I await news. No comment....

In the meantime, like most of my friends, it's a question of easing ourselves back into the working week gently.

But here's wishing you all the best of 2020. And now I will go and have a quick snooze....