Friday 17 December 2021

Three Cheerful Things - or at least, less depressing than the current news

Well, I don't know about you but I've had to turn off the news as the latest Covid stuff makes me very anxious. Yes, I've had my booster but it looks like we'll all get it if we haven't already had it, and there seems precious little that's cheery on the horizon.

Or is there? Well, on reflection, yes. Last week while waiting for my van to be MOTd a friend took me for brekky at the Lakeside Cafe in Helston - lovely food and as safe as it's possible to be with door wide open and a woodburner at the other end of the cafe. I was a bit chilly by the end of our meal but at least we were safe.

The idea was to get some bowls valued that my mum gave me but the guy at the gallery in Marazion had a note saying Closed please come back soon. We did but he still wasn't there, so we took Lainy for a walk and found Friendship Wood - how lovely is that? And then later on, we stopped in Helston and I found a really fabulous coat in one of the charity shops for a tenner - and I've worn it every day since.

We had a select party for four Sagittarians on the Sunday which was interesting and that is my only stab at festivities. I've been invited to others, but don't feel it's a good idea to mix other than on walks, so that's me having a quiet time. However, my fella and I will be spending Christmas Day together (covid and weather permitting) which will be lovely. Neither of us like making a big deal of it so it will be us, the dogs and plenty of walks, food and telly.

As for book news - well, my editor is having a look at my revised first three chapters plus covering letter and synopsis which will be a great help. We're not sure about the exact starting point of the novel, so I await her comments.

So to everyone out there, keep safe, hope you have enough to read and drink etc, espeically if you're isolating, and let's keep our heads down and help each other get through this dismal time. Follow Lainy's example and have another kip. Onwards....

Tuesday 7 December 2021

The C Words and other trials

As I write, Lainy and I have just returned from a walk in the first blast of Storm Barra. Typically, now I've returned home and had to change - why are waterproof coats never, actually waterproof? - the lashing rain has stopped and the fierce gusts of wind are taking a breather.

However, it got me thinking that life is really throwing everything at us, isn't it? Not just covid - I've got to the stage where I try and avoid listening to the latest rise in cases in Cornwall, let alone the latest variants, as it's too depressing - and the rising cases of homelessness, particularly in Cornwall, but well, everything in the world seems to have gone bonkers.

Three of my closest friends have broken a shoulder, a leg and a foot (only one each, not all three), all of which take ages to recover from. Climate change is having a winter hissy fit with all these storms and I really feel for the poor people in Scotland and up north who have had days if not over a week without any power.

Then we have the added pressure of that other C word - Christmas. As my close friends know, this has been a sticky time for me - anorexia, my dad was dying of cancer when we were much younger, and then my Pip died on Boxing Day. Then I was involved with someone who frequently had family commitments away from Cornwall so he wasn't here. So it's been a bit of an uphill battle for most of my life.

However, this year I am glad to say I don't actually have that sick, gut churning dread when I think of the festive period. I despise the ruthless commercialism of it, but I don't get involved in that side of it anyway. I have had several invitations for meals, whether on Christmas Day or another day, and hoping to spend a bit of time with the Fella at some point. Of course having said that, I'll probably spend it in bed, being ill, and frantically begging people to walk Lainy for me, but at least I have a few friends I can call on for that. Whether she'd walk with them is another matter, but we won't go there now.

In other matters, I am continuing to edit The Rescue, and hoping to start sending it to agents in the new year. It's a bittersweet book to edit, given the two canine friends, but I hope it's a real tribute to Moll - and to Lainy of course, albeit for her brief appearance.

So here's to our books, whether you're reading or writing them. And a special thought for all those who are having a really difficult time this winter.

Friday 26 November 2021

The Woman Who Felt Invisible

Today I am blogging on behalf of Lizzie Chantree, whose latest book, The Woman Who Felt Invisible, is taking part of a blog tour which I am delighted to be part of!

This is an exciting story of love, romance and tear-jerking reality, from international bestselling author, Lizzie Chantree.

Have you ever felt invisible? Working as a stationery supervisor and a sitter to a pair of internet famous, delinquent dogs, wasn’t how former cyber-specialist, Olivia, imagined her life turning out. Sitting in a tiny cubicle with a decrepit computer and being overlooked had suited her for a while, but now she’s fed up, lonely and determined to make the world ‘see’ her again. Heartbreaker, Darius, wants to fill Olivia’s days with romance and adventure, but their love of technology has taken them on very different paths, forcing her to leave her past behind. Gorgeous undercover policeman Gabe, is steadfast in finding out if Olivia is part of an online scam. Someone is stealing money from high profile men, but something doesn’t feel right and he suspects someone else is manipulating her life.

Can true love blossom from the most deceptive of starts? And can someone who feels lost, find a way to flourish against all odds?

Here is an extract, just to entice you:-

This was it. This was Olivia Tenby’s life, now. This was how low she had come. At the age of forty-one, she was sweating her guts out in a house that felt like a furnace, babysitting two delinquent Labradoodle dogs called Bertie and Belle, while their owners swanned around getting even richer somewhere else. Wiping her palms across her face, feeling glad she’d discarded her top so that she couldn’t drip on it, she pressed a button. Music blared out of speakers set into the ceiling. This house had everything – lights that came on when you spoke to them, a vacuum cleaner that tripped you over while it scurried along the floor of its own accord, and a fridge that dispensed perfectly shaped ice cubes into crystal glasses. Olivia looked around furtively for a moment, and then laughed and decided to go for it. Her job as dog sitter extraordinaire had begun two weeks ago. She’d been told to entertain the excitable animals in any way she could think of, as they were naughty and destroyed everything while the owners were out – which they always were. Olivia hadn’t even met them, which was baffling. They left her notes with instructions on how to stop the dogs eating the walls and making a mess of the thick pile carpets. She actually quite liked the job, it was as easy as walking in a straight line. Then she thought about how wobbly she always was after three vodka and cokes, and quickly pushed that picture aside. The dogs were bored and, although her job included giving the house a cursory swipe with a duster, it was always immaculate when she arrived. Something was a bit weird, though, as the place was incredibly hot. The dogs liked to slobber all over her, making her even hotter. So she’d taken to stripping off as soon as she sat down with the pooches, otherwise she’d probably pass out and be found weeks later, mummified in dog hair.

International bestselling author and award-winning inventor, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now works as a business mentor and runs a popular networking hour on social media, where creatives can support to each other. She writes books full of friendship and laughter, that are about women with unusual and adventurous businesses, who are far stronger than they realise. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex. Visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @Lizzie_Chantree

Book links: Lizzie Chantree.

Universal book buy link: The little ice cream shop: Universal book buy link: Networking for writers: Universal book buy link: If you love me, I’m yours: Universal book buy link: Ninja School Mum: Universal book buy link: Babe Driven: Universal book buy link: Love’s Child: Universal book buy link: Finding Gina: Shh… It’s Our Secret: The woman who felt invisible:

Social media links: Website: Author page: Twitter: Facebook: Goodreads: Instagram: Pinterest: FB Groups: BookBub: LinkedIn: YouTube:

Friday 19 November 2021


Most of us tend to be dismissive of our achievements, however small they may be, and sometimes may not even notice them.

Last weekend I went up to see my mum and also meet up with my dear friend, Av, who I have known for many years. As she lives in Dorset, we meet up about twice a year, and now to meet mum and also have a catch up ourselves. The first time this year was at the end of June when both Lainy and I were a bit stressed (to put it mildly) as she had just had a crash course in wearing a muzzle, had never stayed in a town, let alone a B&B, and hadn't met Av before.

Lainy did very well but it was quite testing shall we say. Now, four months on, I was delighted when both Av and Laura, who owns the B&B and also has a rescue dog, commented on how much calmer and relaxed Lainy is. She doesn't like the muzzle much, but she's got used to wearing it when we're out, and most of the time I don't think she notices. We also took her to the pub while we had their excellent Pie and a Pint (or glass of wine in our case) for £9 and again she took it in her stride.

And to see her running around the woods, chasing squirrels and a few pheasants, was nothing short of joyous.

She still has problems, of course, but it's so encouraging when other people comment on her progress. It means all that hard work is worth it.

On that note, I am nearing the end of the most recent edit since the freelance editor read it. She didn't suggest changing much - essentially starting at a different place and changing the ending slightly, but I am really enjoying doing it. Apart from those days that we all have, when we wonder what the hell we're doing and why.... but that's part of being a writer.

I am now going off with my mate Jac for a few days' break. Our holiday to Devon had to be postponed till next year as she hasn't been able to drive, so I found somewhere in a quiet valley to walk, read and indulge in some R&R for a few days. Here's to holidays!

Wednesday 10 November 2021

Bad Orchards amongst other things

When I wake up in the middle of the night, I'm often awake for a few hours, so I listen to either the World Service or Five Live. This morning one of the topics for a phone in was politicans and are they bad apples? One listener rang in and said, "not so much bad apples but a bad orchard - what about the Honourable Member for the Virgin Islands?" which did make me laugh.

Anyway, as I don't wish to dive into the murky depths of politics, I will leave that topic there for the moment, and stick to matters closer to home. Editing my novel.

I was advised that publishers like a variety in age of characters, and as my last novel has a young boy in it, I thought I would use an older character, inspired by Pip's cousins, whom I visited recently. They are 93 and late 70s and a wonderful example on how to age well.

I decided to use the 93 year old in my novel, but change him somewhat. He is now 86 and a little stooped but still has the same sharp brain and enquiring mind - and a brilliant sense of humour. Then I thought, well, what purpose does this man have? And I realised that it is to show the protaganist that there are several ways to be happy in a relationship. That there are often no definitive rights or wrongs - it's what is right for those people at that time. And also, that just because a relationship might last, say, 5 years doesn't mean to say that because they stopped being happy, it was a failure. Perhaps it was only meant to last 5 years, but surely those years were important?

I've called this fellow Petroc and he has a Colourful Past, as people used to say. In other words, he had an interesting and unconventional love life which leads to a more rounded view of people - or does in his case. Well, having gone down that route myself, I can only say that life presents you with choices. And, as with all good novels, what happens next depends on what choices you make.

I've always tried to be open to ideas, and while the choices I've made might not have seemed sensible to others, they have made sense to me at the time. I hope always to be open to taking a chance, whether in love, work or adventure. Though preferably, all three. And I encourage the characters in my novels to be, too.

Friday 5 November 2021

Unconditional Love

Those who know me, know that I am easily moved to tears. This is somewhat of an understatement. Pip said once, 'you're the only person I know who can cry at the weather forecast,' but I dispute that.

However, that is another topic worthy of discussion. This morning I saw a piece with Noel Fitzpatrick which was actually a plug for his children's book which has just been published, but it also became a tribute to his dearly beloved dog, Keira, who died not long ago, and their unconditional love.

When Moll was alive, this phrase would always make me laugh, for her love was very conditional. You do as I say and I love you. You don't, and that's it. I will take food from you but it doesn't mean I love you. Don't stare at me, I don't like it. Don't pick me up, I hate it. Don't do this or I'll growl. Don't jiggle me around or I'll bite. Though she did love me, in her own way, but it was very conditional.

Lainy, on the other hand, stares intensely at me with her dark, eyelined eyes. She doesn't blink, though occasionally she winks. I wonder what she's thinking about. She waits for my every move. She doesn't like to be too far from me. She has learned, I hope, that I am trustworthy (unlike many in her troubled past). She does what I ask her to do because she wants to, because she gets food, but also, I think, because she wants to make me happy. She is slowly gaining in confidence. She loves to be admired, to be praised. I'm guessing it's quite a novel experience for her, poor girl. Despite everything that's happened to her, she is trustful, which I find astonishing. She is, like me, an optimist.

Love between humans is usually a much more complex matter. We carry baggage from past relationships. Sacks of hurt that grate, reminding us of the pain like a stone in our boot. Small, but oh, so powerful. We can be wary of letting go, of loving fully in case we are hurt again. Or we can jump into a new relationship, believing it will be like our last. Only to find it isn't. Life can be a game of snakes and ladders.

Shortly after Pip died, I was walking with a friend whose partner had left her for someone else and she was, understandably, devastated. I can remember thinking how much worse her situation was than mine: of course I had lost someone I loved deeply, but he told me how much he loved me every day. My love bucket was full. I had terrible grief to deal with, but it was pure and uncomplicated and full of the love that I'd lost.

When a relationship breaks down, like my friend, we have a Pandora's Box to deal with - betrayal, jealousy, rage, hate, fear, and maybe the belief that we are unloveable. That we will never find anyone else to love again, or who will love us the way we would like, that we are worthy of.

As Noel Fitzpatrick said, dogs allow us to be the best person we can be. We can love them unconditionally, for that is how they love us. If we treat our dogs well, we are the best thing in their lives.

So here's to our dogs. To having the courage to be the best that we can, not just for them, but for us and for those we love. And to the many, many different types of love. This one of Moll was taken on my friend Tony's boat many years ago, but it shows exactly Moll's character and always makes me laugh.

Whereas this is my other girl. A world apart in temperament.

Thursday 28 October 2021

Book Launch, Rewriting the Past and Mum visit

This is Tom Leaper's fabulous statue dedicated to all the fishermen from Newlyn who lost their lives at sea. We walked down here last Saturday after my cousin Jenny Dearlove's launch of her wonderful book "Women to the Rescue, A Penzance refuge for Girls in Trouble". It was a fascinating talk and discussion afterwards, and the book is well worth a read for anyone, Cornish or not, exposing just how hard it was for girls who "got into trouble" in those days, and a stark reminder of how narrow society's views were.

To continue the literary theme, the editor I consulted over my most recent novel suggested I start it in a different place. As the first part of the book is mostly autobiographical, it means rewriting history and she wasn't sure how I felt about it. She suggested that my late husband should die at home (in the book) rather than in hospital and it's actually been very therapeutic - though I've cried a lot - so it could not only improve my novel but help me too.

I'd long ago arranged to do a day trip up and back to see my mum last Monday. But the day before, I had a text from my brother to say that there was a case of covid in Mum's care home, so all visits were suspended for the moment. She's been so down recently, with a couple of infections, that I felt it would be too awful to postpone this visit, so I asked if we could stand outside and talk to her through the window, and the staff said yes.

It was a long journey - five hours of driving to see Mum for 20 minutes - but to see her face light up was fabulous. To our great relief, her eyes were bright and her skin was a good colour so we hope she's getting better at last. I'm going up again in a couple of weeks so will be able to see more of her then - covid allowing.

In the meantime, I leave you with a picture from our first pitstop on our way up to see Mum. Enlarge the picture to see the writing underneath. Good old Trago.....

Tuesday 19 October 2021

Talk and Growing Old

My talk at the weekend was a fringe event as part of the Falmouth Book Festival. It went very well, courtesy of the utterly brilliant BBC's Daphne Skinnard who is a very clever interviewer, and my friends Sam and Dave Pentin who run the Terrace Gallery in Penryn - a small but excellent place for small events. It was quite a novel experience (pardon the pun) being interviewed by someone rather than the opposite way round, and it's always interesting seeing what other people make of you.

To start with she said, "you have had a rich and varied life" - which is usually a polite way of saying that I never stuck at any one job. By my advanced years, however, this turns me into someone Interesting. Worth interviewing and writing about. Funny that - it's only when you're virtually unemployable that this becomes an asset rather than a liability.

But I digress. As I haven't written another walks book for a while and therefore haven't had a book launch for a few years (covid notwithstanding), I'd almost forgotten that I've written five books. It was heartwarming to see them all sitting there on the table next to me. My little family. And to hear that people were actually impressed by them was very good for my confidence.

All in all we had a lot of laughs, shed some tears (me) and I sold some books and had interesting talks with the audience afterwards. Which was fantastic and made it all worth doing. Who knows, maybe this time next year I will be talking about my soon to be published novel - that would be even better.

The downer to life at the mment is that my poor Mum isn't well. She's had a run of things recently - she fell and broke her shoulder, though that's finally healed. But she has been plagued by small infections which have combined to make her feel rotten poor thing, so I am shooting up there on Monday - we're only allowed to visit for 30 minutes - with a friend who I hope will be able to drive as I find driving incredibly tiring. If not she can talk to me to keep me awake.

It's been a few months since I've seen Mum so it will be lovely to see her and give her a hug if we're allowed. I'm going up again to see her mid November and then in December, so she will be fed up of seeing me by then, but at least will make up for any absences. She's so brave and stalwart; a real credit - so it's horrible seeing her struggle. Growing old really isn't for sissies.

Tuesday 12 October 2021

A Talk! For the first time in nearly two years.....

As you can see, this coming Saturday I am giving a talk as part of the fringe events of the new Falmouth Festival. I am going to be talking to BBC Radio Cornwall's Daphne Skinnard, about how I came to write walks and how that led to my walks books and from then on to my novels.

I don't mind speaking in public, though it's always easier when it's in front of strangers rather than people you know. So far, I have some loyal friends coming to give me moral support and that's definitely more nerve racking! Especially as the last talk I gave was early March last year, so I'm a bit out of practice.

Anyway, I am looking forward to it - though I will be very nervous on Saturday! - and hope that this first Falmouth Book Festival goes on to become a regular event.

Talking of which, I had a fabulous Zoom meeting with my editor yesterday. It's always good to put a face to a name and as I'd sent her two pages of notes on her three page critique, we were well prepared. (As ex-journalists, we have a fair amount in common). So after our brainstorming, I now know how to go about doing what I've got to do, she gave me loads of useful information and said to keep her posted and she's there if I need her - well, you couldn't ask for more, could you? So that was immensely cheering.

And many thanks to all the comments about our dogs. I don't think they actively dislike each other - I think it's more that because of lockdown, Lainy isn't used to sharing her home space with another dog. I realised that they hadn't had a spat for six weeks, so it can't all be bad. I know I am more conscientious than most but then Lainy is my responsibility....

Hoping that everone is enjoying this fabulous weather. This was my view walking Lainy this morning.

Wednesday 6 October 2021

Getting to Know You and Cheering News

First my good news. The book I've just written is from a dog's point of view - Moll's to be precise. It almost wrote itself, because Moll was such a strong character, and I laughed and cried as I wrote it. Or she did.

But because it's very different from other books on the market, I wasn't sure if it was marketable, and if so, which agents/publishers to approach, so I asked a freelance editor to have a look at it and give me advice on how to go forward.

Her report landed in my inbox on Monday morning and she really likes it. She said some amazing things about it - every time I read it, I think - is she really talking about MY book? HOORAY!!! And I can't wait to start working on it with her next week.

This news cheered me up, because of a canine scrap at the end of last week. Which is similar to those of you with children/grandchildren who don't get on.

We don't like everyone we meet, and just because we like our friends, doesn't mean that we necessarily like THEIR friends. The same can be true of dogs.

Moll pretty much ignored other dogs - she was very self contained and in her own world, which meant there would be the odd snap but otherwise no conflict. Although we didn't often have other dogs in our flat because it's small, and this can be the difference. Dogs, like people, can walk together happily enough, but put them in a house for a while and if one dog sniffs another bowl, for instance, this can develop into an incident.

This happened last week with my fella's dog, and I felt terrible. I love his dog, who is the polar opposite of Lainy in temperament and doesn't fight back - just as well. Lainy can be unpredictable, and she's very fast, but looking back on it, I can see the triggers. I was appalled that Lainy might have hurt his dog - I was responsible, after all. But as M said, "We just need to plan it better, make sure it doesn't escalate" - for planning is the secret to avoiding any future disagreements.

I did everything wrong over the weekend - I worried desperately, felt really guilty, was terrified it would happen again. Though I have done a lot of planning for our next meeting, and am trying to take his advice, not worry, and make sure that we don't get future scraps. It's more upsetting for us than them, I think.

So the motto of this episode is Don't Panic Mr Mainwaring! Keep calm, watch our dogs carefully, distract them when necessary, and in my case, carry on writing....

Wednesday 29 September 2021

Tiptoe through the Tulips

Yesterday I picked up my poor wounded friend from the hairdresser in the pouring rain and took her home where we had some lunch and for some reason the song Tiptoe Through the Tulips came up. "I remember my dad singing that as he watered the garden after work," I said.

"Wasn't that by Tiny Tim?" asked Jac, and, quick as a flash, found Tiny Tim's rendition on You Tube on her phone.

I'd forgotten what an incredibly high pitched voice he had - and as you can see Lainy was fascinated. She came over to explore the phone, nudging it to try and get at this extraordinary sound. If it's high to us, it must be even higher for dogs, as their hearing's so superior.

It reminded me how powerful memories are. In an instant I am transported back to my eight year old bed, where it's still light outside, and I'm wishing I didn't have to go to bed so early when there's so much fun I could be having outside. Hearing the clip clop of dad's shoes as he whistled his way around the garden, tending to his beloved vegetables and flowers.

Smell is of course another very evocative scent, and I can remember crawling into a wardrobe in the room where my maternal grandmother always slept. It's a very Narnia ish memory as I wrapped myself in the coat she'd left behind and it smelt of her cigarettes, her scent and her very personal Granny B smell. I can remember the comfort I got from feeling her around me, and I have a picture of her on my desk now.

The senses are so powerful - what are your most evocative memories?

Thursday 16 September 2021

Accidents and The Importance of Friends

Last week a dear friend of mine had a bad fall from her bike and broke her shoulder in four places. I hadn’t realised what a bad state the NHS was in, particularly here in Cornwall, until she told me what she went through:-

Lying for two hours in the road because no ambulances were available because her injury wasn’t life threatening. Having been taken to A&E by the police, requiring gas and air to get her sitting upright, she then had 5 hours in A&E. She was sent home with an inadequate sling, inadequate pain relief and told that the x ray revealed she’d broken her shoulder in four places. She’d probably need surgery but that couldn’t happen for two weeks. The following day, Treliske cancelled all except life saving surgery. She was still in agony due to insufficient pain relief.

A week later, and several trips to the fracture clinic (a 2.5 hour wait yesterday), it’s possible that surgery may not be needed. Fingers crossed. But she will need an OT assessment for help at home and for physio.

She is an incredibly brave, tough woman, but for anyone, let alone someone who has worked for the NHS for 40 years, to be treated like this is just appalling.

However - and I found this when Pip was very ill - in the darkest of times, we find nuggets of pure gold. One friend of mine, who has only met her once, has offered any taxi service to hospital or picking up anything, as she is always driving her sons to and from school in Truro. This, one of the busiest, kindest women I know. Proving the saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person”. Or as my fella said, “If you want something done, ask a busy woman”…..

The flipside is that as her current work has been exhausting and badly paid (and I’ve been nudging her gently to give it up for a long while), this has forced the issue. There is other, more rewarding, better paid work, for when she is fit again.

So to me this really does go to show that while we are currently governed by inept politicians who don’t give a toss about our health service, or the social care system, what is really important is that we look after our friends. I will fight for those I love, and fight hard.

So watch out!

Wednesday 8 September 2021

Award and memories

Having had a particularly difficult day yesterday, I was delighted to check my emails late afternoon and find I am a finalist for the Page Turner Awards for my novel, HUNGER. Mind you, my euphoria lessened when I realised there are quite a lot of finalists, and the next step is to whittle us down to ten. Still, given that thousands entered, it's good to have got through the first round. So that cheered my day.

I'd also been for a walk and a swim with friends, two of whom are Lainy's favourite godmothers, so she had a wonderful Girls Afternoon, even if she didn't enter the water. She teetered on the edge, looking aghast at me entering this vast ocean, then emerging all WET, and was careful to only get her claws wet. I can see we're going to have to leave the swimming lessons till next year.

Listening to the radio this morning, they were talking about how sad it was that one particular school couldn't afford school trips any more, because they couldn't subsidise them, and I thought, well we didn't have any trips. But apparently other schools did all sorts of things. I was astonished to hear of schools going to other towns or cities, going to the Guinness Brewery in Dublin. To the theatre to see a play or a ballet. Even to the West End. We would walk down the steep hill, in crocodile file, to the beach for swimming lessons - does that count as a trip, I wonder? Once, some of us took part in the Paignton Singing and Music Festival, and it took me days to recover from the excitement of getting on a bus and going as far as Paignton. I also went to Plymouth for ballet exams, three times, and was in such a state of nerves and excitement (I'd never been to a city before) that I threw my train ticket out of the window.

However, I don't feel that we missed out by not having school trips. I explored in my head, through books, which gave me every chance to go wherever I wanted. I also explored on foot, outside, with my best friend Geoff next door, and also my other best friend, Lin. We played games with the farm animals inside when it rained and Geoff was always the Sergeant Major in charge of his troops (me and my brothers) when it was fine, in his garden. Lin and I would walk and run over Dartmoor, the beach and the sea, swimming, rollerskating and having a wonderful time.

I'm not against school trips - they sound a wonderful privilege, and I was very fortunate to be able to explore so easily where I lived. But I think the imagination is very underrated, maybe more so nowadays. It provides such a vast world, without borders or end. And I think that is the shame - that more people aren't encouraged to develop their imagination, to take part in this fantastic place that is accessible to all - and free.

Thursday 2 September 2021

Rescue dogs

As most people know, I have a Romanian rescue dog called Lainy who came into my life through a strange series of coincidences, very soon after losing my Moll, and this led to me writing my most recent novel, The Sixth Scent.

Lainy is an incredibly affectionate dog (Moll was not, though it didn't stop me loving her). Lainy just loves learning things - you can see the intelligence shining from her eyes, she is greedy (therefore easy to train) and showers those she loves with extravagant kisses. She will walk happily for hours, and because of her double coat, she is better equipped to deal with the heat, the cold and the wet.

So far so good. But, like many dogs, particularly some rescues, she has behavioural issues. These seem to stem from her first home where she wasn't treated well, and as a result she is nervous of many people, especially men, and can nip their feet and ankles. She likes to chase cats, cars and joggers and cyclists, though I am glad to say that she is much better about this now. Well, apart from the cats. She was terrified of black bin liners and footballs - again, with time and patience, she is curious now rather than scared. And she is still learning how to greet some dogs politely.

Other dogs have many other problems - separation anxiety, barking, biting, guarding food, to name but a few. I have to say, there have been times this year when I've thought - why did I take this dog on? But, as with anything worth doing, it's not always easy. And the rewards, when things improve, make it all worthwhile.

But it is a steep learning curve. I am fortunate in having a wonderful dog behaviourist, Ruth Collett, whose knowledge, patience and deep love and understanding of dogs is incredible. She is responsible for the improvement of so many dogs' behaviour in Cornwall! But that comes at a price.

I would always advocate rescuing a dog, rather than buying one that just makes the breeder money. But wherever your dog comes from, be prepared to work hard. Dogs need patience, time, understanding and love. They need walks and training. They can be a tie and are a very big commitment. They need vaccinations and vet visits, insurance and micro chips. It's not a cheap business.

So I would also say, don't take on any dog unless you're prepared to give them what they need, in terms of time, love and money. But if you're sure, you could belong to the Dogs' Owners' Club, which is one of the very best in the world. You may soon find your dog in the driving seat.

Thursday 26 August 2021

Support Networks - for Writers

The phrase 'support networks' has become about as overused as the terrible 'unprecedented', which has long set my teeth on edge. But we all need a group, or groups, of people who will give us support, when we need it.

When I first became a journalist, my editor insisted I join Facebook and Twitter, and there I found some amazing online support groups, some of which I still use today. I know there are increasing numbers of malicious people on social media, but there are also like minded people, many of which can give valuable support and advice.

My writing support network tend to consist, in the real world, of a collection of individuals rather than groups - at least, there are Cornish groups but trying to find a convenient time and place for us all to meet seems to be incredibly difficult. But I am fortunate in having several very talented writer friends I can ring up and ask for help or advice. And of course it works both ways.

In my personal life, I am fortunate in having some fabulous friends who I know I can rely on - and I am there for them, too. And of course, I count books as my support group as well. For what can be better, when we're feeling tired and need a pick up? Or fed up and need to escape? In need of instruction, and finding wise words...

Who or what are your support networks? I real life, on paper, or on screen?

Wednesday 18 August 2021

Mini break and Editor

A close friend suggested that we should have a campervan picnic - two of them - which then led to the Where Shall We Go, given that Cornwall is overrun with visitors, and the vans are both quite big. Then my friends were probably leaving earlier so I'd have to go in my van and meet them there. Then we decided to stay the night, which further compounded the problem of where to go.

Eventually we found a very small campsite which had pitches for us both, by some miracle, and so we arrived there independently on Monday. The problem I was worried about was not whether myself and M would get on - we know that we do - but the dogs. Lainy had a squabble with M's dog the week before and I was very concerned that this shouldn't escalate, particularly given that we were going to be living in close quarters.

So I did a lot of preparation, talking to Lainy's foster mums - we have a Whatsapp group as we all have rescue dogs, and can compare notes on any problems we encounter with our respective canine charges. In fact, I'm glad to report there were no squabbles, though poor M's dog had evidently had enough by yesterday afternoon, and went and sat in the car park in protest. I felt terrible - after all, we were the guests - even if Lainy had been on her best behaviour - but hopefully we can focus on the positives, of which there were many. Even if Twig might not have thought so.

It was really lovely to have just 24 hours away - we explored new walks, had a fabulous barbecue with our dear friends, enjoyed a few glasses of wine and all in all, I felt as if I'd been away for several days rather than just one. And we're going to plan the next break very soon.

The other cheery thing was that I got in touch with a freelance editor, who was highly recommended, to give me some advice on Sixth Scent, my most recent novel, and she came emailed back to say she thought it was great. Unique and quirky. So we're going to start work on that at the beginning of October. So that's another positive.

I'm also going to Devon and seeing my mum at the end of September. I know it's not possible to get away, or at least go very far, but as we found yesterday, even going six miles away makes a difference, and it's very important to have things to look forward to, isn't it?

Friday 13 August 2021

More of me and Fern

Well, this was one of my moments of glory from last week's show, Fern Britton's My Cornwall.

I was all a-quiver beforehand because I didnt know how much, if any, of the two hours of filming would be used. fern and I talked a lot about Daphne du Maurier, Winston Graham, Rosamunde Pilcher, writing, inspirations - lots of stuff and I rather feared none would be used, but it was!

Three of my closest friends came round with a bottle of Prosecco, to watch it, and nerves mounted as the programme went on - and on - and still no me, though I knew I'd be at the end, if at all. And then, there I was! Jacqui had lent me the jacket that I was wearing to go riding, and her gloves (essential as my tiny hands were frozen), and another friend lent me the jodhpurs and boots, so I might have looked the part but that was entirely due to my dear mates' wardrobes.

We were so excited I don't think any of us took much of it in, but two of them took pictures off the screen, so I can use some for writer publicity stuff which is good. The above picture is from TwoFour Productions so that's the best quality.

As the programme ended, my phone rang and it was James, my neighbour, who I'd completely forgotten to tell. "Why didn't you SAY?" he said. "We're just sitting here watching telly, and then we saw Fern, and then - you! And we said, 'That's our Sue!'"

So that's my piece of fame for this year. The Tooth Fairy is convinced that the phone will ring with offers of TV programmes but so far it's remained decidedly quiet..... Another friend suggested this could be the start of my new career as a TV equestrian journalist.... The thing about life is that you just never know. Meanwhile, on with the day job and editing....

Monday 2 August 2021

TV appearance

The above picture has nothing to do with my TV appearance, but I have no stills or pictures because any photography was forbidden during filming.

In April I was contacted by a TV production company to ask if I’d like to take part in a programme featuring Fern Britton in Cornwall. Would I?!!

To cut a very long story short, it involved me filming with Fern on horseback for several hours on Bodmin Moor and I loved it! This, despite the fact that I hadn’t ridden for 30 years, and then it was only for an hour - otherwise it was nearer 50 years. I did have a trial ride before hand and found that, to my relief, my muscles hadn’t entirely forgotten how to hang on or what to do

… I’m not at liberty to say any more until the programme has aired which will be this Thursday at 8pm on Channel 5. It’s entirely possible that my part will have been edited out completely, but will probably be reduced to a minute, if that.

But the producer was most complimentary about my knowledge of Cornwall, and its writers - I had, mind you, written books on the topics, but it’s amazing how quickly you can forget things.

Still, we will be sitting in front of the telly with baited breath on Thursday evening. As an optimistic friend said, “Who knows what this will lead to?” Probably nothing, but the experience was brilliant and I found something else I really enjoyed. If it does lead to anything, that’s even better.

Rather like Helen Glover said, on her recent experience at the Olympics, “it’s the trying that counts”. And like her, I’m not afraid to try.

Wednesday 28 July 2021


I often wonder, as I listen to Desert Island Discs, how people would really cope with isolation.

We've all had our fair share of it during the past 18 months or so, to varying degrees, but I'm lucky having a dog as an excuse to go out and our walks have become my social life, too.

I can only deal with so much isolation. So far, I haven't had to, for Covid reasons but I dread that more than being ill. For practical reasons, mostly - Lainy is too nervous to walk with anyone else, so what would happen to her? I couldn't leave her for 10 days without a walk. And how would I manage not seeing my friends, my support network. My lifeline? This is another reason for being very careful...

Much has been said about the benefits of walking, but I don't feel I've had a Proper Walk unless I go somewhere quiet, with grass or turf or sand beneath my feet. Where I am away from other people - preferably not seeing anyone, or other dogs. I'm not unsociable, but I pick and choose my friends and when I see them. I need Quiet Time, to unwind, and process what I'm writing, what's been going on in my life, and I get very crabby if I don't get it.

Being a writer for me means writing in isolation. I can't even have a radio on in the house if I'm writing, or I can't concentrate. I know lots of writers to go cafes and other busy places to write, and I can do that for short periods of time, but for in depth writing, I need my own space, and quiet. I also get awful back ache sitting at a cafe chair.

I write in my bedroom - my desk looks out on the back yard and my neighbour's garden where, looking out now, Joe is filling up the bird feeders on the tree outside their door. Their nasturtiums are creeping along the branches of the bottle brush tree, showing their beaming yellow faces to the sky. The wind is flapping my sheet and duvet on the washing line. The sun is creeping round to bathe the back of the house. Mel is hoovering in the distance, a low whining sound. Silence, as she stops. The muted tones of a radio.

It's a good exercise, I find, sometimes, to pause for a minute, listen to what's going on outside my window. See the wildlife outside, against the blue blue of a July sky. It must be like meditation - it brings me back into myself. Which for a writer, is vital.

Where does everyone else write? And what is your view?

Monday 19 July 2021


So how is everyone in this heatwave? We're not used to it, are we? And though I'm lucky because I live in a Victorian flat which is nice and cool, I pity those people who live in houses that are too hot.

Last year I used to go down to a certain beach not too far from here which is dog friendly and involves a cooling walk down through the woods. But Lainy's quite nervous of strangers still, and doesn't like the water, and we figured that the past weekend would have been swarming with people near the sea anyway. So yesterday we had a lovely day in a friend's (shaded) garden, planned our next holiday and then took a cool walk in the woods nearby. What a lovely day, and Lainy loves having a proper garden to play in and sunbathe in. And today I'm going to run down the hill when the tide is in and swim there.

Having had a few weeks not being able to do any editing, it has been lovely to get back to it, and proves that a bit of distance can be a Very Good Thing as you can see your work more objectively. I'd been concerned about two of the characters, and suddenly realised that one of them is redundant. So he can go! Oh, the power of the writer - just like "Off with his head"!

When you read a really good book, it's hard to find another to take its place, isn't it? AFter the Mike Gayle book I featured last week, I've re-read The Partisan's Daughter by Louis de Berniere for our book group, but didn't enjoy it was much second time round. I find this quite often with books - a few years can make all the difference between enjoying and not enjoying something.

We have Mavis Cheek's The Lovers of Pound Hill to read for my next book group meeting and it's one I haven't read before. As I love her books, this will be no hardship. I particularly loved her early books, which made me cry with laughter.

So that's my reading while the weather's hot - what about you?

Thursday 8 July 2021

Another review

My local library has reopened and what a joy it is to go and browse again. I was the only one there, so maybe people aren't aware that libraries are open again - I do hope more customers make use of it, for it would be a terrible loss if they were to close.

While I was there, collecting a book that I'd ordered, I came across Mike Gayle's latest novel, All the Lonely People. What a joy this book is - refreshingly honest, and so important in tackling one of the worst problems of our times - loneliness.

Hubert Bird, an 85 year old widower, lives in Bromley in the house he and his wife bought many years ago. But in his weekly phone calls to his daughter, Rose, in Australia, he tells of a busy retirement, packed with good friends and fun.

But in reality, Hubert talks to no one other than Puss, his cat. He shuns company and has no idea how isolated he has become. And then Rose announces that she is coming over to see him, and Hubert panics - how can he conjure up a bevy of close friends and a fun filled life out of nowhere?

The arrival of a young single mum and her daughter on his doorstep, begging for help, set in motion a whole new way of life for Hubert that at first he stubbornly resists. Ashleigh is a determined character, who brings joy and richness to Hubert’s life, and it’s a joy to see how their relationship develops.

The novel is told in the present day, with flashbacks to Hubert’s life when he arrived in England from Jamaica, desperate to find work, and then meets Joyce, who he soon marries. But Gayle doesn’t flinch in telling of a cold and wet London where people are rude, prejudiced and incredibly racist.

Gradually Hubert realises the value of friends - of all ages and walks of life - and becomes aware of just how lonely he has become.We hear the truth about his son, David. Of his beloved daughter, Rose. Of the long love affair he had with his wife, Joyce, and how he slowly loses her.

He renews an old but vital friendship, becomes involved in a community scheme that aims to end loneliness for good, and even stumbles across a second chance of love. I fell in love with Hubert, for his kindness and compassion, his way of always finding a way through life even when it was incredibly difficult, and his desire to make things better for others.

This is a moving look at life, race, old age and friendship that I found incredibly touching and uplifting. We can all relate to all or some of the problems addressed in this book, but above all, the message is the ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference - if they just have a go.

Tuesday 29 June 2021

A Visit to Mary Wesley's home town

Tomorrow I am off to see my mum in her care home and also meet up with my dear friend, Av, whom I haven't seen for 18 months now thanks to lockdown, so it will be a joyous reunion.

We are taking Mum out for lunch, then staying at a B&B in Totnes - a new one for Lainy who will, no doubt, be a bit wide eyed at it all, but I'm hoping that with her familiar things around her, and me, she will be fine. Av has already fallen in love with her, albeit through photos, so we're looking forward to a few quiet walks and some picnics with Lainy.

Totnes was also the residence of the great Mary Wesley, whose novels I have read time and time again - my favourites are The Vacillations of Poppy Carew, and Harnessing Peacocks. I never tire of the wonderful characters that jump off the page, the fantastically intricate plots, and her completely unique approach to novel writing. No one since has ever come close to her stories, I don't think.

My mum used to work in a second hand bookshop at the top of Totnes many years ago, and Mary Wesley would often call in there. She was quiet, very modest and always interested in books. Very different from the characters that she wrote about.

So while we are there, I will take time to think about her work. About what made her books so special. And try and take heart from the fact that she was 70 when her first adult novel was accepted. Let's hope I make it before then!

Thursday 24 June 2021

Daughters of Cornwall

I heard Fern Britton being interviewed a month or so ago about her novel, Daughters of Cornwall, which was coming out in paperback, so I made a note of when it would be available and bought it.

All of Fern’s books that I’ve read so far have been contemporary so it was interesting to read this which has three timelines - First World War, Second World War and present. And Fern has put a lot of research into this book.

What I found fascinating was that this was based on her own family’s secret: that her grandmother had given birth to a son that no one knew about.

It turned out her grandmother became pregnant when she was eighteen during WWI but because she wasn’t married, her son had to be fostered. She saw him in secret and sent whatever money she could for his keep, but when she met Fern’s grandfather and had a family with him, communication ceased. She didn't want her husband to know, because of the shame, but she evidently spent the rest of her life missing him, for just before she died, she told Fern’s mother that she’d been very wicked.

When Fern was 23 and working for Westward TV in Plymouth, a man got in touch asking if she was Ruth Britton’s daughter, and if she had a grandmother called Beryl. When she said yes, he replied that he thought he was her uncle: that her grandmother was his mother.

It seemed such a shame that her grandmother had carried this guilt around with her all her life, and never seen her son as an adult. So this formed the inspiration for Fern to write this novel, although a lot of it is fictionalised. She says, “I wanted to show that my grandmother had nothing to be ashamed of, that she had done nothing wrong. I hope I’ve done her story proud.”

The descriptions of the wars were often horrific but gave a true sense of what really happened both for those fighting, as well as for those who were left at home.

She also dealt with some of the mental health problems that occurred - a man’s dependence on alcohol to help him deal with the horrors that he endured and witnessed - and the help and care he received to help him overcome his problems. I fear too many didn’t get help and carried on suffering all their lives.

These are all strong women - loyal and hard working who proved they didn’t need men. I liked the strong link between mothers and daughters that was woven through the book, as well as the fact that most families have secrets. What secrets do we all tell in order to survive, and protect those we love? Like many good stories, it is about how these characters survive love and loss, and keep their heads above water.

I like the way the cycle of unplanned pregnancies is broken at the end, and by he way we are drawn into the lovely warm community of Callyzion. So if you're after a good read this summer - here's a recommendation. Even better, knowing that it's based on Fern's grandmother.

Monday 7 June 2021

First draft completed

Apologies for long delay but I had a week's caravan trip in Coverack at the end of the month, which was a lovely break. The weather left a bit to be desired on several days, but it was good to have a change of scene and different walks. I also had the unexpected addition of meeting up with a new addition to my life every other day, and it was good to spend more time together.

But sleep was in short supply, not helped, I think, by my reading matter. Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson, is an incredibly clever book that examines what would happen if there were an infinite number of choices of how to live your life? How she thought about constructing and planning that book makes my head spin - there's no way I could do that. And some of the content was harrowing, which probably didn't help my sleep pattern. In fact, Jac told me firmly to Stop Reading That Book, so I did.

Instead I read Fern Britton's Daughters of Cornwall which is based on the true story of what happened to her grandmother's son, ie her uncle. I will report back and review that in another post, but wondered if anyone else had read it and what they thought?

But back to the title of this post - you see how easily I am distracted. This morning I finished the first draft of the novel I am currently working on. I know it needs a massive amount of work on it, and I can't decide whether I'm pleased or not, as I'd kind of written the ending as a short story some time ago, so I knew how it would end. Anyway, I've decided it is an achievement, though I feel it will be much harder to edit it than write it. The good point about that is that courtesy of my journalism years, I actually enjoy editing now, whereas I never used to.

I've just started reading PUSH, a very interesting book about motherhood by Ashley Audrain. Excellent so far, and I'm only a few chapters in.

I might also have some work using a different type of writing, but I am waiting to hear on that. So as I return from my break, it's lovely to have several new things to look forward to. Spending more time with a new friend, working on editing both novels and a possible new writing project.

Hope is in the air. I hope.....

Wednesday 19 May 2021

A book Day

Yesterday I had a 5am start for a really exciting morning that took me way out of my comfort zone. It was work but of a different kind than I'm used to, and I always think that experiences that make me do unusual things are very often the best, and often with unexpected benefits.

I'm not able to give any details at present, but I promise that in a few months all will be revealed. Anyway, it was a fascinating experience that I absolutely loved. I was very glad that a dear friend drove us there, though because I was incredibly nervous, and even though we allowed two hours to get there, we only just made it in time owing to a) traffic and b) sat nav taking us round in circles. However, we finally got there at 2 minutes to 9. Phew!

Sadly, Lainy decided that despite walking with my friend and me on many an occasion, she wasn't keen if I wasn't there. Despite copious amounts of sausage, she just wanted to get back to the car and wait for me. I'm hoping that once she gets a bit more confidence, she'll be happy to walk with my friends, but you can't rush a rescue dog.

Anyway, after we finished, I was desperate for a drink and as we were near Lanhydrock, we thought we'd call in there for a coffee, and sat in the sunshine before continuing on to Fowey, to Shrew Books, which I hoped would take my books. We left the sunshine and drove towards black clouds. And I mean huge, thunderous black clouds that decided to deluge on us just as we reached the main car park.

The rain appeared to ease, so we set off, then my poor friend slipped on a manhole cover and - bang - landed on her side, putting her hand out to break the fall. Being an ex-nurse, she knew what to look out for, and feared she'd broken it at first. Then perhaps sprained it. Boots supplied a tubi-grip which helped, I called into the bookshop to leave some books, and we headed back to the car park.

From there, already a bit wet, we headed off to Coombe car park on the outskirts of Fowey which is one of my favourite walks in that area, down towards Poldridmouth or back towards Covington Woods. Once again, we were caught in another deluge, and dived into the woods. We got soaked anyway, and Lainy was less than amused, but then the clouds blew over and we were able to walk and dry off a bit for the rest of the walk.

This was a real book day - the morning session was all about books, then a dive into Shrew Books in Fowey, and our walk which was all around where The King's General, by Daphne du Maurier, is set.

So for a literary road trip it was great. And, I hope, successful. As for the morning session - I will be allowed to give more details in the summer. But for now Lainy is having a Quiet Day to get over the excitement.....