Wednesday 25 November 2020

A Makeover

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

What are you reading?

I belong to a book group and have done for the last 15 years or so - maybe more! Over the years this group has evolved but there are usually about 6-8 of us who meet once a month reading books from the library. This means we get whatever they’ve currently got 10 copies of.

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.