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.