Wednesday 29 July 2020

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth....

I was known as Rabbit at school (well, that was just one of my nicknames). Others were Flowerpot, Pot, Kit Kat, Kitten, Sex Kitten (that's another story), Puss, Sis, and a few others that have accrued over the years, for various reasons.

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

The Great Enabler

Here is my great enabler, who is 15 this week. Well, it's sometime around now - as she was brought over in her litter from Ireland, and we never saw the parents, she could be any age or indeed any type of dog, but that's not what matters. (To digress a moment, remember when dogs were just - dogs? Mongrels, like Moll. Nowadays perhaps the term 'mongrel' is non-PC. Dogs have to be labradoodles or cockapoos or whatever. Why not just dogs? End of murmur.)

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

Taste your words

The other day on the radio I heard a 10 year old talking about arguing with his siblings during lockdown. He was incredibly eloquent, particularly for his age, but ended the clip saying "You have to taste your words before you spit them out".

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

Love in all its forms

I love this picture which I was sent via WhatsApp last week but had already been sent as a birthday card from my dear Belgian friend. It says it all, and made me think about how many different types of love there are - and all of them equally valuable.

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.