Monday, 21 December 2020
We're all facing an uncertain end to the year. If this was a film, you couldn't really think of anything else to go wrong. Well, you could but let's not tempt fate.
Yes, the news is terrifying, but as one health expert pointed out, keep washing your hands, keeping your distance and wearing a mask. That really does help. And what we all need to do is plan for how to get through these next few months.
Living alone is no fun during lockdown (which we all know may be on the cards in January) but I have Lainy, I have my support bubble and I have other friends I walk with. My social life has largely consisted of dog walks for most of this year. I am 20,000 words into my next novel so I really hope I can still write, as that helps keep me sane. And I think it's a question of trying to keep each other going.
I've also got some good looking books to read over the next few weeks, and although my visit to my Mum has been postponed, again, I hope to be able to see her soon. She has her second Covid jab in early January.
So I end this last post this year by wishing everyone to keep safe and well. And plan for how we're all going to keep going for the next few months. What are you going to do?
Thinking of you all, with love, hugs and best wishes and a healthier 2021, Flowerpot and Lainy.
Wednesday, 9 December 2020
I am a great believer in heading out of my comfort zone as well as staying firmly in it, if you know what I mean. I can be quite easily persuaded out of it as long as it includes Lainy; less easily so if it doesn't.
Some dear friends of mine have taken up swimming in the sea - in wetsuits I hasten to add - but that't not for me, for several reasons - 1) Lainy is still taking time to train, and i have to have an hour in the afternoon to do this, preferably before it gets dark. They swim from 2-4pm which wipes out all the afternoon. 2) I have Reynaud's and the thought of immersing myself in cold water makes me shudder. 3) Particularly as you have to warm up again very slowly. I know I'd have even worse chilblains than I do at the moment. And I hate having chilblains. 4) I'm still working so two hours out of my day is a lot, particularly when that is Lainy Time. So while I really admire their fortitude, that's not for me. I might have a go in the summer when its' warmer and I can tempt Lainy in the sea too.... But to get back to small examples of getting out of my comfort zone: this morning, the Tooth Fairy's car had to have an MOT at 8.30am which is well before his getting up time. I got up at 7am which is also before my usual rising time, but I was rewarded by the most amazing sunrise. It just got better and better as the minutes went by.
The bacon was just how I like it - lean and crispy, the rolls were small and tasty with sesame seeds on top, and the spiciness of the brown sauce was just perfect. What a meal, washed down with a cappuccino. Perfect fodder!
We then headed down to Half Moon Beach, scrambling over rocks in order to beat the tide, and had a wonderful time with Lainy on the beach.
The garage then rang saying could we pick the car up as they're really busy, so we had to head back, but got home in time to do a good morning's work. WE both really enjoyed the time out, an unexpected breakfast, and more time training Lainy on the beach and the Hornworks.
It's very easy to make excuses not to do things - and I'm as bad as the rest of us - but sometimes when the occasion crops it, it makes all the difference.....
Thursday, 3 December 2020
Last week I finished The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett. I can't remember how I heard about it, whether it was from a review I read or the TV programme Between the Covers, hosted by Sara Cox, that's been on recently. Anyway, I ordered it from the library and it was one of those slow burn books, but in a good way. What a writer!
I so enjoyed this novel which is about identical twins and their identities. There's so much in this story, which is set between 1968 and 1986 and starts off in a small town called Mallard which was founded by a man whose "skin was white but would never be accepted as white and refused to be treated as Negroes".
While one of the the twins disappears, without telling her sister, to marry a white man who doesn't know her background, the other twin struggles with her loss of identity through losing her sister, and falls into an abusive relationship. The story follows the contrast in their lives and is a fascinating tale of race, gender and identity.
As soon as I'd finished it, I looked up to see what else she's written - The Mothers. So that's on my reading list.... Any of you got any recommendations?
Wednesday, 25 November 2020
Before you (or I) get excited, I must just say that it's not me having the makeover, but my kitchen.
Until I wrote this, I'd never realised that miniscule kitchens were such a pattern in my life.
I've never had a fitted kitchen - the first flat I bought in London was so tiny it could accommodate one anorexic and that was sideways on. The second flat wasn't much better. Then after I left London, I finally bought a tiny cottage with, again, a minute kitchen. Luckily a friend of a friend was an architect so she designed a very imaginative kitchen making use of every corner (and believe me, we needed it).
Then when Pip and I moved here, there was once again - yes - a tiny kitchen. Luckily he was not only very practical but extremely imaginative so he made the kitchen worktops out of wood which he then varnished, and our other worktop was an old school table that had been raised to the right height with the addition of some wooden balls underneath the legs.
Since Pip died, the table became riddled with woodworm so the Tooth Fairy took it out in the yard and demolished it - it literally disappeared in a cloud of wood dust, there was so much woodworm. Then it went up my chimney. So I lost a worktop area.
And recently I've realised that not only have I no workspace, but that the wooden worktop is really scarred and splintering. It has water damage. It's not easy to keep clean. So I decided it was time for a Makeover. However, never having done this before (I know, at my age it's incredible) and also having very little interest, this did not make life easy.
The Tooth Fairy took me to B&|Q where I nearly passed out at the prices. And so much bewildering choice.... taps, cabinets, worktops, sinks - my head was spinning after 5 minutes and we had to leave. I took one look at the catalogue later that night and again my mind whirled in despair.
"How about looking on Marketplace?" said the Tooth Fairy, which was a much better suggestion. We found an island unit near Helston last week and, while it was too big, it was a lovely afternoon, so we took Lainy on to Godrevy for her first trip so the afternoon wasn't wasted.
Since then the Tooth Fairy and Joe upstairs have both offered to help with the Makeover. We went to Praze-an-Beeble on Sunday to get a sink, then to B&Q to get a worktop and other bits, and now they are attempting to fit the sink into the old plumbing. I'm keeping well out of this.
But hopefully, by the end of the week, courtesy of my wonderful friends, I may have an operational kitchen again. With space. I can't see why people get excited about a Huge Brand New Kitchen, but I shall treasure my new little space.....
Thursday, 19 November 2020
This time it was George Orwell’s "The Road to Wigan Pier". I am a fan of Orwell’s work. I like his tight prose, his fantastic descriptions and his ability to bring everything to life. However, reading this in week two of Lockdown Two, with death rates rising around the country as well as the world - well, to be honest I could have done with something a bit more uplifting. I got as far as Chapter Three and switched to something a bit more cheerful. I did want to sleep, after all.
Before that I read "Wild Mary", the biography of the amazing Mary Wesley. Like most writers, she had a fascinating and turbulent life, with many lovers - not surprising given her beauty and intelligence. That was a book that will stay with me for a long while, not least because she was 70 before she got a major publishing deal.
Also from the library is Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig, who is one of the best writers about dealing with mental health problems that I’ve come across. He’s been through it, still goes through it, and is able to write so well about it. Any of his books are worth reading.
Having abandoned Wigan Pier, I started "Step by Step" by Simon Reeve. I found his account of his early life fascinating - another man who had a lot of problems with depression in early life and seriously contemplated suicide. But through a lot of hard work he has ended up with a career he loves, and a family he adores. Not bad!
I’ve also got several novels to be read - Rosanna Ley’s latest, From Venice with Love - her books are always a lovely mix of foreign travel and Dorset, but this one is also set partly in Cornwall, so I shall enjoy getting lost in that.
I picked up Jessie Burton’s the Confession in the supermarket a while ago and then realised that I’d read the hardback version from the library last year. Damn. But it was long enough ago that I have forgotten much of it.
So that’s my eclectic mix of reading over the last month or so… What about you?
Thursday, 12 November 2020
This just goes to show that you can take interesting pictures in the rain. Though I agree it's not that interesting, and it does rather sum up Lockdown Two....
But I digress. Writers are often asked where their ideas come from. In the case of my walks books, frequently a friend has suggested the writer concerned - this happened with Cornish Writers and Daphne du Maurier. In the case of Poldark - well, the tv series of Poldark went global overnight and I realised that if I didn’t write a book of Poldark walks, someone else would and I couldn’t have that! Rosamunde Pilcher was brought about by the number of German tourists who visit Cornwall - and are very welcome too. Though obviously we haven’t had many this year…
When it comes to fiction, the idea for HUNGER came from an incident that occurred when I was in the back seat of a friend’s car. Her new boyfriend said something I shan’t repeat but it was very suggestive and he looked back to see my reaction. It made me feel very awkward, and when I was telling the Tooth Fairy about it, some time later, I said, “if this was a novel, he’d be the baddie”. We looked at each other and that was the start of one of the characters. There's a motto to this, of course....!!
I also knew I wanted to draw on particular experiences of my own, as well as that of others, so that created a theme. The planning and plotting took place over many, many breakfasts in Wethers with the Tooth Fairy. A great deal of what we cooked up together (pardon the pun) ended up being removed, but we had great fun and it was lovely to share in the planning.
The idea for my next one, which has a working title of SMELLING THE FUTURE, came about when I was having a drink with a friend soon after Moll died. (Come to think of it, this was the only time since lockdown I’ve been out for a drink. And I used to meet friends in the pub several times a week!) But anyway...
We were sitting outside our local hostelry and, as a Moll Fan, she was devastated and wanted to know what had happened. That grew to telling her about my eventful life during Moll’s reign, and my friend looked at me and said, “This is your next book.”
Pauline is very direct, extremely clever, and is usually right. But in this instance, I thought - oh, no. It seemed too - too personal. But then the more she talked about how I might write it, the more I thought - actually she’s a genius.
So that is how my next idea came about. It's still in the planning stages though I have written a short story about part of it. Whether Pauline is proved to be a genius depends largely on my writing, of course, and how the publishing world might view it. But she’s right, they like stories told from a different angle, so we will see….
Thursday, 5 November 2020
This being the first day of Lockdown Two, our outdoor life is becoming increasingly important. My social life mainly consists of socially distanced walks with friends. And as I have a dog that needs walking, and I love being outside, even if I’m not researching new walks for my books, that ticks a lot of boxes for me.
I appreciate that many people don’t enjoy walking as much as I do, but one thing that the first lockdown did was make many people appreciate the outdoors. Spring became an exercise in appreciating the wonder of nature bursting forth, helped, of course, by spectacular weather.
Now we are at the other end of the scale of the year. Autumn’s colours are always fantastic, but we are heading towards an uncertain winter which makes us all uneasy. Like many others, I suffer badly from SAD, but getting out does help.
The year I wrote Walks in the Footsteps of Poldark was the wettest winter for 100 years. I had a deadline so I had to put together the book in six months - winter months - which meant a lot of grey, dismal walks. (It also meant tearing round the county on the Easter weekend - the first sunny weekend for six months - taking pictures of the walks in sunshine .
But each grey walk was an adventure. A part of discovering more about Winston Graham, and his Poldark characters, or settings. It gave the day a focus, a reason. So next time you feel like doing a walk, pick up a walks book - one of mine if you feel like it! Walk alongside with me. I’d love to share it with you. And give your day a focus. A reason to get up, to go out, to explore.
I find getting out, even if it’s raining, helps to get through those grey depressing days. I don’t mean getting soaked - though I did that twice on Saturday - but even getting home cold and wet had a certain pleasure. I felt so much better for getting out of the house. I fed Lainy and then thought, well I’m cold and it’ll be dark soon so I’m going to get into bed with my book.
I did. I’ve just finished reading Wild Mary by Patrick Marnham, all about the amazing writer Mary Wesley, who my mum used to meet in the bookshop that mum worked in. And her story really gives me inspiration. Which, let’s face it, we all need more than ever at the moment.
Wednesday, 28 October 2020
On Sunday the Tooth Fairy and I set out to look for a van for me. Those of you who follow me regularly will know about Vangate which occurred nearly a year ago. Basically, while we were away for the weekend, the van broke down and I ended up spending £400 only to find that the problem still existed. This went on for 8 weeks and the problem is bypassed rather than fixed. Anyway, the long and short of it is that I’ve spent a lot more on the van this year so I’m thinking it’s time to look for a new one.
So we set off, driving through wind and rain while the Tooth Fairy read the map on my phone. He’s not used to an iphone cutting out every few minutes and having to put my security code in and there was a lot of cursing. Also, being a man, he hates not being able to find where we’re going. (I just cheerfully say, oh let\’s go somewhere else, but he won’t have that.)
We eventually found several garages but they were shut, as it was Sunday afternoon - still we got a good idea of what was around and then decided to have a walk on the way home. We came to Blackwater, one of the quietest hamlets I’ve come across, just off the A30, and it was like stepping back in time.
It was incredibly peaceful. Birds, no cars, no people. An old fashioned village shop. A long grassy area like a village green with benches, and a polite notice asking people to keep a 2 metre distance when walking in the village.
We walked up a lane and the sun burst forth from behind towering castle-like clouds, lighting the fields a startling emerald. Shetland ponies whickered curiously as we walked past, exchanging greetings with Lainy. Further up we came to a house covered in slogans, mainly against the local planning department, it seemed. We walked past tranquil gardens, more grazing horses, and silent gardens where bonfire smoke drifted upwards in a lazy spiral.
We kept turning right and finally arrived back at the converted chapel that is now a house with gorgeous church sized windows, and in someone’s drive was an old truck with a skeleton in the back, with a jaunty hat. On the bumper read a sticker, IT MAY BE A PILE OF SHIT BUT IT’S IN FRONT OF YOU which made my day.
So that was our Walk with a Purpose. We didn’t find a van but we had a look. We didn’t have a very long walk, but the sun came out which is always a bonus in my book. And we found something that made us laugh. You could say that we hadn’t achieved very much. To me, we had a good few hours in each other’s company, found somewhere new and enjoyed time with Lainy. What’s wrong with that?
Wednesday, 21 October 2020
We never had careers advice at school. I wasn't considered bright enough to go to university, as I did badly at exams, and in the end my parents were asked to remove me after O levels as my anorexia was considered too disruptive. I was delighted - it was what I'd been campaigning for since the age of 11.
Throughout our lives, work apart, we may become parents, partners, brothers, sisters, carers, wage earners, dependents - all kinds of things. But these roles can and often do change.
I remember after Pip died, I had a real Who Am I time. I wasn't his wife any more, or his carer. I'd lost my best (male) friend and I was just so desperately grateful that I was still a journalist rather than being cast into the role of Grieving Widow. For when I was working I was back to being Me again. The Real Me.
This year, of course, has been exceptionally weird and while for some life has stood stil, for many it has fallen into a rubble about their ears, so this can be a really difficult question to ask ourselves. It can be scary because it means looking at hopes and aspirations that may have crumbled. Our dreams might seem unrealistic, impossible, which is daunting Or just Not Possible At the Moment, which is different.
I've always been a writer, ever since I could spell, aged 4, but it was a long, long time before I was paid for that work. And now I am looking to change things a bit with my books and also I hope to get my novel published.
Not that telling stories is something new - I've made them up for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first novel when I was 13 (a Gothic novel which I found the other day. It wasn't nearly as bad as I feared!). But getting an agent/publisher is, as most of us know, incredibly hard.
But when I was asked the other day, Who Do You Want To Be? The answer has always been A Writer. I've achieved that, but now it is also A published Novelist. In addition to Journalist, Poet and Travel Writer. Greedy? No, it's what I've always longed to be.
Thursday, 15 October 2020
Like many people, this year I had Plans. I was going to go on holiday! Unlike a lot of people, I was extremely fortunate in being able to get my writing retreat in before Covid and for that I am more grateful than I can say. And sincere condolences to all those who missed getting away.
I'd also planned to go to France with some friends for a long weekend. I'd booked four short breaks courtesy of those special offers if you collect vouchers from various papers. Hah! Though one is still a possible, hanging on by a thin thread of hope and optimism.
They say that things often come in threes - bad luck that is. (I'm not sure about good luck, or perhaps we just don't notice it as much.) Anyway, last Friday I had an email from my business partner because some design work that was long overdue had arrived and wasn't what we'd hoped. Then I had an email from somebody regarding the possible sale of one of my books in Germany - well, it looked like that was a No No. Then a phone call from the caravan park where we were due to stay in November, saying that because of rising Covid cases, they've decided to shut the park for November and December. Oh, and to get a refund I had to contact the agent who then said they couldn't pay it without a Request for Refund from the park who said they'd already sent it - etc. etc. With luck we might get our money back in 28 days....
I think you can imagine how I felt. But the sun shone and I had a walk with a new friend and her dog and I thought bugger it I will not be beaten. Various friends gave very interesting feedback on the fact that Rosamunde Pilcher TV films are being shot here in Cornwall and will be aired in Germany next year, so all is not lost. Or at least that is still - maybe - a possibility. I've also found another caravan park that would be willing to take us. This required some effort, as most caravan parks in Cornwall seem to be closing quicker than you can say Sod It.
Of course we might all be in lockdown by mid November, which is when we were hoping to go, but I always feel better with a bit of optimism on the horizon. Don't we all? I've had two rejections for my novel but it's out there being looked at other agents, and I've had an offer of guidance from someone in the business and I am SO grateful for that.
So I guess the motto for this long ramble is that when it looks like the shit's hit the fan, don't give up. With a bit of perseverance, there might be some good news - somewhere. It just takes a bit of digging to find it. (Of course in a few months time when I'm weeping over yet more rejections, I might say what a load of bullshit. But at least I can self publish.)
So keep going folks! And here's some Vitamin Sea....
Wednesday, 7 October 2020
This is a rare picture of me and my lovely friends (sorry Ali, you're hidden behind Bev!) on our brief but brilliant trip to Roscoff this time last year. We had earmarked last week for a repeat trip but sadly and for obvious reasons this hasn't happened. But it will.
At least of course, I hope it will. I was talking to a friend last night about bending the truth - or not being entirely truthful - lying - whatever you like to call it. And he said "lying comes from fear" and I realised how true that is.
I have two good male friends who are at opposite ends of the Truth Spectrum. One, a very talented and clever man, tends to say exactly what he thinks. The advantage of this is that you know exactly where you are with him. The disadvantage could be that he upsets people though he's never upset me.
The other is another intelligent and talented fellow but so concerned with what people might think, that he tends to bend the truth over backwards so as not to offend anyone. And in doing so, tends to tie himself in knots. And this can have obvious complications, like not knowing when be's telling the truth.
Now I'm not saying that either is right - I tend to say what I think most of the time but I try to be reasonably diplomatic about it, and like most people I will tell the odd white lie.
So that got me thinking about you lot - those who read these words that spew forth once a week. What do you think about Bending the Truth? When and where did you last tell a white lie? After all, this is very often the stuff that books are made of. Thrillers, romantic novels, crime, historical - just about every good story has a good lie or two in it, to bring in doubt, misunderstanding, arguments, fallouts, murders- you name it.
So whatever you think of lies in real life, we couldn't do without them in our books.
Friday, 2 October 2020
This painting is by my very talented friend Ernesto Pescini - check him out on Facebook for other works of his.
Much of Ernesto's work comes from emotional turmoil, as I'm sure you can see from this one. I find them tremendously gripping - they pull you in, and the more you look, the more you see.
When I first met him, he was a bit lost - aren't we all - and hadn't been able to paint since February. But I'm glad to say he has been taken on by another gallery, in St Mawes, and is now back painting again, producing an alarming amount of paintings in the last few weeks!
He also very kindly helped sort some problems with my van this week, which was much appreciated. Yes, Van Gate rumbles on a bit (not as badly as late last year) but having totted up how much I've spent on it this year, I've realised the time has come to start looking for another one.
But then, so much has changed this year. Just after Moll died I was walking with a friend who said she thought this summer would go down as the year when nothing really happened. At least you've got your DOG, I thought bitterly. I was in that stage of grief where just seeing anyone else's dog was too painful.
But now I have Lainy - yes, I couldn't let a whole post go by without mentioning her. And Ruth, who is a dog whisperer and creator of all things caninely magical, said she couldn't believe the change in Lainy over the past week. She's gone from being scared of everyone and barking like mad, to - in a single week of meeting more of my friends, at home - welcoming them in. We've done quite a bit of work, instructing friends to give her a chew on arrival and a few other things - and lots of training, but the difference is incredible.
Now Lainy chews her chew, comes over to greet our guests, then lies on the carpet and usually goes to her bed. Quite remarkable. She also mastered going to a pub for the first time and I am so proud of her I think I might burst.
She was lost and then I found her, but more to the point she has rescued me, just as much as I rescued her. So thank you my darling girl.
Wednesday, 23 September 2020
They are both very different characters. Moll was very self contained, very sure of herself, doled out love in specified doses. Moll was not about unconditional love. But the love that she awarded was all the more precious.
Lainy, despite her difficult start in life, is incredibly loving and bonds very quickly. She is trusting of me but very nervous of strangers. I say to friends, don't lean over her, don't put your hands out, let her come to you. Those that ignore this advice may get nipped. Plus when she's stressed, she has a tendency to nip people's ankles when they are inside and suddenly stand up. A dear friend suffered a nip when this happened.
So there is work to be done - as with most dogs, least of all rescue dogs. If you think of the work that goes into training a puppy, that is phenomenal. Lainy needs time to gain confidence and realise that strangers in the house can be friends, and won't hurt her (and are supplied with treats). And I really look forward to that day.
With all the news of further restrictions, and autumn/winter approaching, there is little to celebrate. Although as I write, the sun has come out. I am getting on with what I hope is the final edit of my novel. There is other stuff on the horizon (book stuff that is, to be announced at a later date). Lainy is asleep behind me as I write (just like Moll did) and I take huge comfort knowing that she is here, with me, and loves me already. As I love her, very strongly and powerfully. Whatever happens over the next six months, we have each other.
And that, together with my dear friends, old and new, is worth celebrating. Pip said to me once, "life's easy when things are going well. It's when things are difficult that you find out about yourself, and need to be strong." So to all my friends - let's help each other through this next tricky phase. Walking in the fresh air, talking, laughing and crying. And I have the honour of doing it with Lainy.
Thursday, 17 September 2020
Thursday, 10 September 2020
Wednesday, 26 August 2020
Thursday, 13 August 2020
Blogger has gone all strange on me, and there's supposed to be an icon to add images but I can't see one, so this will be a boring post while I try and figure out how the hell to do this. It's like supermarkets changing the layout, so just when you get used to the bread being in a certain place, and the fruit and veg in another, they change it so everyone wanders round looking confused. I often have a strop, and walk out, which somewhat defeats the purpose of the trip, but there you go. Anyway, I now have my teeth. Thanks to a dedicated trio of men - my dentist who is an incredible fellow, very good with nervous people, very calm, explains everything going on, and does a brilliant job. Secondly, my fabulous neighbour who runs the dental design lab I talked about last week with his business partner. He has dedicated so many hours to my teeth and then, when they needed a bit of a tweak yesterday, spent nearly three hours getting them absolutely perfect. To him, too. And for his amazing generosity which has really blown me away. And lastly to The Tooth Fairy, who made it all possible financially. A bit like the Unholy Trinity - at least, I can't speak for the other two, but I know the Tooth Fairy isn't religious. So I now have a smile that we are all proud of: Donal and James professionally, and the Tooth Fairy personally. As he said, "I am pleased to be a part of you." So next time I need some professional pics done, I won't have to smile with my mouth shut... I am the least vain person - the only time I ever look in a mirror is to put my contact lenses in, but these really will make such a difference. So here's a big thank you to my Trio. And I believe that good things are paid forward. So I hope I will be able to do for others what these guys have done for me. And next week I hope to have some pictures!
Wednesday, 5 August 2020
We went to Dartington Gardens on Saturday morning and saw this wonderful Henry Moore sculpture which I really love for its solidity, and its wonderful rounded shapes - you almost want to stroke it. The gardens are also stunning and almost better for being a bit wilder.
And it made me think that sculptures require a lot of technical as well as artistic expertise, which is exactly what, I have discovered, dental technicians need.
Yesterday the Tooth Fairy and I went to visit my neighbour James at The Lab Dental Design Studio in Penryn where his partner took some pictures of my teeth and he explained the whole process of how implants, dentures and crowns etc are made. It is incredibly complex and requires a hell of a lot of expensive, highly advanced equipment, as well as a lot of dexterity and experience.
We were both incredibly impressed, then he took us upstairs to meet the others working there, including his wife who designed my teeth on this amazing 3D programme. I had never really considered what goes into making teeth but having seen it, it is completely understandable why it's so expensive.
To be honest, a lot of the technical stuff went over my head, but the Tooth Fairy has done a lot of casting and moulding so he understood a lot more. But we thought, well, what a talented lot of people we have as neighbours! It's like keeping it all in the family. So I'm going back to see James on Monday just to check that I'm happy with my teeth, then they will be fitted next Wednesday.
All my friends that have seen them have said what an incredible difference they've made, and I must say I feel so much better. They felt comfortable straight away and I've been walking, swimming ("don't get them wet!" cried the Tooth Fairy) and generally doing everything as normal. Though I haven't bitten into an apple with them yet.
Just think - this time next week I will have my proper new gnashers.
And here's another one of some amazing tree trunks at Dartington...
Wednesday, 29 July 2020
But I digress - the reason for Rabbit was that I've always had slightly sticking out front teeth due to an overcrowded mouth. I started wearing braces as a teenager but moved schools and the boarding school didn't want to have to take me to an orthodontist up there and as I was having a lot of trouble eating by this time, my Mum decided it was best to leave it.
I've always been very self conscious about my teeth, so I don't open my mouth when I smile. A few years ago I had to submit a load of publicity shots for my books and thought - oh my god, my mouth is really gappy. I had an unfortunate NHS dentist who whipped out a load of teeth in my forties, rather than try and save them.
So, having a very good (and, of course, expensive) private dentist, I was persuaded to have two implants. My dear Mum gave me money towards this so they are largely down to her. And they have made a big difference.
But my front teeth have always been a bit crooked and uneven. For ages a close friend kept saying how much difference it would make if I had them done (though I wasn't sure what could be done). So earlier this year I asked what could be done and how much it would be. Yes, a lot of money. But he very kindly said, "Would you like me to be Tooth Fairy? It'll make such a difference to your confidence."
Delighted, I said yes, and then Covid came along and everything was cancelled. But this morning I went along for my first appointment. Little did I know it would involve an hour's worth of drilling but I now have temporary front teeth and they look amazing! I'm so pleased I can't tell you.
As soon as I got home, with frozen mouth, I went round to see the Tooth Fairy, who was almost more delighted than me. "Take your glasses off," he said. "You look really beautiful." (He is biased.)
And, to keep it in the family, my next door neighbour is the dental technician who will make my teeth. "Come round to the lab and you can choose exactly what you want," he said.
So next week we're going to go and choose my front teeth. Or, as the French would say, "mes deux dents de devant".
Thursday, 23 July 2020
Anyway, it's incredible to think that Moll arrived in our lives 15 years ago, when Pip was suffering from really bad depression, which is why I thought a dog might help him. It did. Shortly after that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and then pulmonary fibrosis. The other stuff came later. So any dog lovers will appreciate that there timing was impeccable. Without her we would have sunk.
I can remember when Pip's diagnosis came through and he didn't want to talk to anyone. Not that he was chatty about personal stuff anyway, but our world shrank to the three of us, with me shielding phone calls. Moll was our black and white spotted bundle of joy who kept us going. And still keeps me going today and every day for as long as she is here.
The other great enabler, as I was reminded by Patrick Gale during an online session yesterday, is death. I would also add that of course other massive life changes such as separation, divorce, illness etc can also be great enablers. Sorry, this isn't meant to be a depressing post but death really can be an enabler, as well as being utterly devastating.
Many people feel stuck in their lives, bound to partners or parents or people they feel they can't leave. They tread water, wading through treacle-like limbo, hoping guiltily that the time will come when the people they care about (or may not care about, which makes it even harder) will be taken from this life, freed from their pain and leave the carer free.
If things are really intolerable, some people find the courage to leave notwithstanding and who can blame them?
Being a carer must be one of the hardest things imaginable. I only had several months of it when Pip was very poorly, latterly, and I wondered how the hell people carry on. The simple answer is that you just do because there's no option.
But when death comes, alongside the gut wrenching, sleepless, gnawing grief, there can be a gradual relief. That the one you love is free, and that means you are too. The Berlin Walls surrounding you crack and crumble, brick by brick. You see glimpses of life outside - a "normal" life, whatever that is. You tiptoe and look outside furtively, expecting a brick to land on your head. A few might land on your feet, but you scrabble at them to create a hole big enough to crawl through. And gradually you wriggle through the debris, and stand up, glancing at the sky, the buildings, the people, the sea, the boats and the dogs, the cats and the spiders, the birds singing their hearts out.
And you realise that there is another life out there. You just need the courage to live it.
So here's to my Great Enabler. Happy birthday Mollie Dog. The picture below is one of Terence Coventry's superb sculptures in his Sculpture Park at Coverack. Do go. It's wonderful.
Wednesday, 15 July 2020
Well, I thought that was brilliant. From the mouths of babes and all that.. and it made me think of how important this is.
The other day I was talking to a fellow author who was bemoaning some feedback she'd received from a professional in the business. It was so obviously untrue and didn't apply to her, or her work, that I was flabbergasted. She was deeply upset and was on the point of ditching the novel which is FAR too good to do that. Several of us persuaded her to keep going, and then she received some other feedback which justifiably was incredibly enthusiastic about her work, restored her spirits and made her look ahead again.
The same has happened to me - many years ago someone tore what I'd written to shreds (she wasn't a professional but the same stands) and I cried all the way from Penzance to Falmouth. When I eventually asked her why she'd done that she merely said the same thing had happened to her. (IN which case why do it...??)
We all open our mouths and insert feet every now and then - it's easily done - but I do think, and particularly in a professional or friendly capacity, it's important it remember it's not what you say but how you say it. I have several friends reading my novel at the moment and their criticism is always fair and well thought out, so I really respect it.
I think we could all learn a lesson from that 10 year old. Apart from anything else, tasting your words before you spit them out is so beautifully visual....
And I leave you with a picture of Moll enjoying a good back scratch...
Thursday, 2 July 2020
My friends are so important to me. They would be anyway, but not having children of my own or a close family, they are the mainstay of my life. We walk miles with our dogs (or just Moll), cry and laugh over our trials and tribulations and keep each other sane. I've learned how important it is to be non-judgemental. To listen. I got that from my Mum, bless her, who is an amazing listener.
I've found love, the last two times, very suddenly and unexpectedly. A friend and I were discussing how her tenants had run up a massive phone bill (It's strange what you remember about certain occasions) when Pip walked in. And the rest is history.
Four months after Pip died, when I was deep in the throes of grief, I met someone else. I really couldn't handle falling in love again, not in the middle of grieving the man I loved most in the world. I couldn't sleep, lost half a stone in a week and felt as if my world had turned upside down.
Well, that love has been full of ups and downs, some great sadnesses and moments of enormous happiness. During one of the sad times, several years in, I had to have major surgery and met another wonderful man, incredibly kind, who offered to nurse me through my operation. While we weren't as compatible as might have been hoped, he remains a dear and true friend and I am so grateful to have met him.
Last year I ended the ongoing relationship as the sadnesses outweighed the good times. And yet that love, which has been incredibly complicated, has endured through the darkest of times. Even though we're not together we are still very close. It's rare that you find someone you can confide in, share laughs with, be utterly yourself and also find them attractive, years later. It's a great shame this one didn't have the happy ending I feel we both deserve, but it seems this is as good as it's going to be.
Over the last week I've learned of two people I know, both who live near me, who have both found love during lockdown. Now how incredible is THAT? The first one I heard about via Facebook when I was feeling particularly miserable and it felt like a real kick in the guts. I'm sorry but it did. Now, I'm having a better day and I am really glad for her. Which I was anyway, but when you're feeling unloved, sometimes you don't want to hear about how happy other people are.
Then I heard about the second person and I am so very glad. So happy for both of them. It just shows that love can - and does - pop up when you least expect it. In the most extraordinary of circumstances.
I was talking to a dear friend the other day and she looked at me and smiled. "There are lots of different types of love," she said. "Be careful of your heart, but remember, life is about risk versus benefit."
So I give you Love. In all its forms.
Wednesday, 24 June 2020
I've noticed that many creative people have low levels of confidence. I suppose because, like anyone who sells anything, we are only as good as our last product. If, say, your first book sells really well, the expectation is that the second book must be as good, if not better. That's enough to knock the creative stuffing out of anyone.
But even for those people who write books that consistently sell well, there is very often the sudden confidence crisis once the book's been sent in to an editor - is it good enough? Will she/he like it? And then, when the book comes out, you have the same worry - will the readers like it? Will it sell? Will it convey the message you're trying to get across?
I remember hearing that Jenni Murray said that, for all the many years she's been presenting Woman's Hour, the only time she wasn't nervous was the time that she made a huge blunder - on air, with her mother listening. So perhaps this lack of confidence is like stage fright - we need it to keep us performing at our best, whether it's books, art, presenting - whatever it is.
As I've grown older my confidence levels have mostly levelled out. But there are those Bad Hair Days when everything seems wrong, when I can't write a word - or what I've written is rubbish. When I'm convinced that I am unlovable, unwanted, few an utter failure, all that stuff.
What I try and do now is remember that there are certain times of year when I just feel rubbish. Mid December to mid January us often a write off for me. Lockdown hasn't been fun. But the only constant in life is change.
And I think that's what we all need to remember. That the rubbish times do pass. Last week I was feeling horrible, but today the sun is shining, Moll is snoring under the bed as I write this and I'm seeing some dear friends later.
So we all need to remember, not just in these Covid times, that this too will pass.
Wednesday, 17 June 2020
When I first heard that people living on their own could form a support bubble with another household, I thought, What great news! and skipped around the kitchen, as I am fortunate in having some really amazing close friends. At last - the prospect of a HUG! Like everyone living on their own, we are starved of that most basic of human needs - TOUCH. But now I’d be able to hug my friends!
But as the evening wore on, it gradually became clear that all my close friends have FAMILY, and family takes precedence over friends. So, at a time when the government finally appeared to be trying to make it easier for those of us living on our own, I now felt as if I were being punished for not having my own family. (I have brothers but I rarely see them, and my mother lives 100 miles away. Much though I love my mum, driving 200 miles to see her would not be support in any way. But I still felt guilty, that I was being a Bad Daughter.)
The fact that my friends have family commitments was quite understandable on one level, but because I was feeling very wobbly, it felt like a personal rejection. I began to feel unloved, unwanted, the odd one out - it opened up a Pandora’s Box of insecurity that I have battled with since being a teenager.
Once again it felt like Christmas (a friend once described me as The Waif and Stray), with everyone wrapped up in their family bubbles, while I stood outside, watching through the window, before trudging home on my own. Or at school, when everyone picked teams and you were the last one left. The odd one out. The one that the teacher made one team take, and they hated you for it. Yes, the demons really had a field day.
I finally plucked up courage and texted a dear friend, but I was by this time so worried about rejection (her partner has family commitments), that I was prepared for her to say No, sorry.
But bless her, they readjusted their family commitments so I can be part of their bubble and we celebrated with HUGE HUGS (I cried like a baby) and a glass of wine on Saturday night.
For someone who hasn’t touched another human being, let alone had a hug for three months, those hugs were simply the best thing ever.
I know I'm incredibly fortunate in having a Support Bubble, but those days of feeling really isolated and wretched made me realise that there most be so many people who feel the same. And who don’t have the prospect of a bubble to help them.
Those who don’t have friends or family nearby. Those who might have family but don’t get on (remember, this is supposed to be a support bubble, not a detention bubble. We’ve all had enough of those.) Those who have to make really difficult choices between children and partners, children and other children - the list is sadly all too long.
I discussed this, sobbing loudly, when I met with my dear mate Jacqui, and wondered how I could help others who are, for whatever, reason, Bubble-Less.
And while I can’t invite anyone to join mine, I would urge any family or couple to look around you, think of who you know who might be on their own, who might really need some support. They might not want to ask: they might be scared of being rejected. (I was.) And that would make them feel even worse. But if you can help anyone, please do. It would not only change their lives, but it might also change yours.
Just think about how quickly life can change. It could be you on the outside, looking in.
Wednesday, 10 June 2020
Well, to a certain extent I suppose I did slow down socially as, like everyone else, I had no social life during lockdown. But during the day I was busy working on my novel. I did a counselling course. I collected prescriptions and shopping for people as part of Volunteer Cornwall. I walked Moll as and when permitted. I wrote my blog. I wrote. And I wrote. As I'm used to working from home, this part of my life didn't change.
But I listened to various friends talking about how lovely it was to be with their families and/or partners, doing nothing all day. Evenings spent watching films, drinking wine with their nearest and dearest. Daytimes spent cycling or walking or doing the garden (with their nearest and dearest).
Last week I had a socially distant walk with some friends I hadn't seen for a while who had both spent a relaxed time with their partners. "You've been ever so busy," one of them said.
I felt almost guilty, that I hadn't been relaxed. Doing nothing. But I explained, "It's lovely to do nothing when you're with your loved one, but the trouble is, because I live alone, if I sat around doing nothing, I'd get extremely depressed. I'd fall into that black chasm which has steep, slippery walls, and I wouldn't be able to get out again and that scares the hell out of me. So it's vital for me to keep working. Have a purpose. A focus."
As Wendy Perriam once said, on being widowed, "I've got plenty of friends to do things with. I really miss someone to do nothing with."
I was telling a close friend about this conversation with my mates when he rang a few days ago. He's not on his own but sometimes you can feel more lonely when you're with the wrong person. There was a short pause when I told him about fearing I'd fall into that black pit. Then he said, "Yes. That's what's happened to me."
As a writer we want to communicate. And part of that communication is to help other people crawl out of their black pits. So for everyone wanting a hand up, just shout. Talk to anyone you trust about how you feel. The black pit only exists when there's one person in it. Once you've shared how you feel, the black will become lighter. Daylight will filter through. You will realise that the walls are not so steep, and they're beginning to dry out.
Furthermore, there's a foothold in the corner, and if you put one foot in, you can reach up, and pull yourself out.
Wednesday, 3 June 2020
As you can imagine, Thursday was a bit of a fraught day. The vet rang at 9.30 to see if I'd like to bring her in earlier as they had a cancellation, so I had to take her there, ring from the car park, while someone from the surgery, in PPE, picked her up and took her off. And that was the last I saw of her for six hours.
Luckily the heart surgeon rang before and after the scan to ask what had been going on etc. and he said he thought she'd probably just had a bug. Certainly after several days of very little exercise, her energy levels have bounced back which is lovely to see. Moll has a heart murmur which could lead to congestive heart failure - this is essentially when fluid accumulates around the lungs. (This is how Pip died, so I am praying this doesn't happen to her, bless her.) So I monitor her breathing once a week while she's asleep and as it hadn't changed, this seemed a good sign.
Having done the scan he said no, the heart isn't enlarged, she's no worse than she was nine months ago, and she doesn't need to have another scan for a while. Unless her breathing changes or I see anything else I'm worried about, in which case bring her in straight away. I suspect that she led them a merry dance in there as she gets very stressed at the vet anyway, let alone when they're trying to sedate her and do scans etc. The scans are also incredibly expensive so I will be glad for her not to have any more for a while.
So she's back and, to my amazement, the next day she was firing on all cylinders. Had her first proper walk for a week and loved it. Since then her energy levels have been amazing - especially as it's been hot - so we've walked later, in the cool, and the last few days we've both been swimming which has been fantastic.
I am so relieved and delighted and amazed to have my little companion back with me and walking alongside me. Bouncing and swimming alongside me, in fact. I can't tell you the difference it has made.
There were other things going on last week that were very stressful and unfortunate, resulting in more sleepless nights and a lot of tears. But having Moll back to her occasionally grizzly self makes me a very happy woman.
She is snoring on the bed behind me as I write: the one loving constant in my life and I am so glad that we have some more time together. Time that I hope to make as joyous as possible for both of us.