Wednesday 14 December 2022
Anna knew me when Pip died, and was very much there for me. She then had a rescue greyhound called Bill, so understood how very important our four legged loves ones are, particularly when we're feeling wobbly. I remember her telling me about a close friend whose partner had left her, at Christmas, and I felt grateful. For although I was ripped apart when Pip died, I felt secure in the knowledge that he loved me as he did Moll - completely and thoroughly. There were no gaps in his love. And to be that loved is a) very rare and b) gave me a lot of badly needed confidence, for I had evidence of his love, which was a big, all surrounding love.
Whereas this poor friend was faced with anger, insecurity, sadness, feeling unloved, rejected, worthless - a real Pandora's Box of emotions, nearly all of which were negative and damaging. So that made me the lucky one.
Anna and I were laughing about Pip (she had, like all my friends, been very fond of him). He was, as my mother said, "equally popular and at ease with both sexes". Men were drawn to him because he was brave, had sailed single handedly across the Atlantic in a fishing boat, with no engine or electrics. He liked a drink. He was a born narrator, and held people captive with stories of his adventures.
Women liked him because he was charming in a courteous, playful way. He gently teased them but made them feel loved and protected, like me. And they all knew how much he loved me: there was no way he would ever stray.
Also unusually, for an adventurous, Alpha type man, he wasn’t afraid to tell everyone who much he loved me. Shortly after we met, he stuck an A4 sheet of paper to one of the telegraph poles leading down to the Pandora. It said simply, “Jacko loves Curls” which, he knew, would get all the locals' tongues wagging - "who is this Curls?". This was just the start of his love missives which continued through the years in my packed lunch box for work, in little cartoons, all over the place.
You can read more about Pip and his love - and subsequent loves - in The Rescue, order now on www.suekittow.com. Last courier posting date before Christmas is Monday 19th December, so hurry!
It's also available through the Falmouth Bookseller, Rock Paper Scissors at the Chocolate Factory, Mullion and the Terrace Gallery Penryn. More outlets arriving soon.
Wednesday 7 December 2022
It's extraordinary to think that this time last week I was rushing up to the Princess Pavilion to take all the books etc up for my launch. It wasn't possible to set up then as the room was in use all day, but having deposited everything in the office, we had a good time wandering around outside in the sunshine seeing all the Christmas trees, each decorated by a different school or organisation. The coffee was good, too!
For some reason I was exhausted that day, but had to walk Lainy, then The Fella arrived and we went back to the Pavilion at 4.30pm to set up the books - a friend suggested arranging them in a dog bed which was a great idea. I took some of my walks books as well, and some of my cards, Anne bought me a drink, and at 5pm people starting arriving, and from then on there was a steady stream of people all wanting books, which was wonderful.
My dear friend Ali's ukelele band came to play background music, and they were positioned on the small stage at the end of the room, so I opted to sit at a table next to them, which gave me some moral support!
After about an hour I gave a short reading from the book, and talked to more people, and then it was time to start tidying up and go home, check the dogs, light the fire and eat. It was an exhausting day, but so lovely to see so many friends. I'd been worried that not enough people would turn up, as many said they wouldn't be able to come - but all was well!
Now it's on to trying to sell more books, and waiting for people's reactions. That's the really scary part. I mean, I know not everyone will like it but I hope the majority do. I did have a chance meeting with a friend from my book group in Sainsburys on Friday, and she gave me a huge hug and said how much she really loved it, and how much she knew I'd put into it. As she is a very discerning reader, I was so touched and that really made my week.
Tuesday 22 November 2022
But she is evidently made of tougher stuff. Gradually, she and the dog started looking forward to their walks, and with the help of psychotherapy and managing herself, her sleep and remembering to eat regularly, life wasn't as terrible as it had been. The dog's tail started coming up - a sign that she was happier. After a long while, she was able to let the dog off the lead, and several years on, she’s a different dog. Still cautious and wary, but much happier. More confident. She adopted another foreign Bosnian dog who was as uncomplicated as her first one was complex.
She moved from the wilds of Essex to London, to be nearer loved ones, and wondered how they would both cope. Would they long for the quiet fields of Essex? How would the nervous dog cope? Initially she was wary, but after a while she settled down, and is enjoying the acres of roaming that Hampstead Heath provides, embracing the change. Learning to be more sociable.
The speaker turned out to be the novelist and journalist, Jo Jo Moyes. She said that maybe she has lessons to learn from her nervous dog. Maybe she does, but I thought, they’re called rescue dogs because we rescue them. But really, as everyone knows who has one, they rescue us.
Friday 11 November 2022
Life has been dominated by The Rescue and marketing. I did one interview last week and another this week, and a few online ones coming up. Oh, and when not doing that, looking after Lainy, who we thought had recovered, but she had a setback last Sunday when we had rather too long a walk. So that was our fault. On Monday, having gone out for a very short wee walk, she decided she was going back to lie on the sofa all day, apart from the odd dash into the garden. She did the same on Tuesday and of course I was worried, even though she wasn't limping.
The Fella just said, "clever girl," (Lainy, not me) which of course was the right attitude, and by Wednesday Lainy seemed fine again. AFter a quick check at the vet (we went for her annual booster), he said gentle walks for the next week as it takes six weeks for a shoulder injury to repair. So we're nearly there....
Lastly, because it's late and Friday night and I'm tired, I had a message to say my books will be arriving at the end of next week, so if anyone would like to order, please do so on www.suekittow.com - the first 50 people get free postage. It will be available on Kindle in a few weeks. The launch will be on 30 November at Princess Pavilions in Falmouth from 5-7pm, so all are welcome. Plus friends with four legs and two...
Wednesday 26 October 2022
I gave a talk last Saturday as part of the Penryn Fringe Festival, which took place at the Terrace Gallery. I was interviewed by Pauline Causey, who’s worked for the BBC for 30 years, so I was in safe hands, and she asked me about The Rescue.
Actually Pauline’s idea that I should write this book. Shortly after dear Moll departed this life, I had a drink with Pauline and she wanted to know what had happened, and also a bit more about my life with Moll, starting from when Pip was alive. Life had been quite eventful, and Pauline’s eyes grew wider as I told her what had happened. ‘You have to write about this,’ she breathed, taking a sip of wine.
‘I can’t,’ I said, ‘It’s too personal.’
‘Well, make it up,’ she said. ‘And Moll should write it.’
To be honest, I thought she was bonkers. Then, after a few days of mulling over this idea, I came to the conclusion that she was a genius. Well, she is anyway, but…. How should I write this story, the beginning of which would be true, but make the rest up? And how on earth could I write it from a dog’s point of view?
I did a lot of thinking, and observed my new rescue, Lainy. I read a lot about how dogs communicate, and of course the obvious difference is that while we use our eyes and speech, dogs use their noses, which are 100 million times more sensitive than ours. Their hearing, also, is way more effective than ours, but it’s their noses that do the brunt of the work. Then I had to think how things would smell. For example, dogs must identify their owners by their smell, but what do they smell like? And what does happiness smell like? Illness? Fear? Grief? Joy? Embarrassment? Pauline had just got the new edition of National Geographic which supports the theory that dogs do empathise, grieve and show joy just as we do - well, anyone with a dog knows this, but at least it shows that I’m barking up the right book. Well, no one knows for sure, other than dogs, of course, so I had to use my imagination. One thing I did know was that Moll was extremely greedy, so food features largely in this book. Ironic, given that I’m not very bothered about food! I might have got this completely wrong, but after 15 years I knew Moll pretty well. She was opinionated, stubborn, greedy and her love was given very conditionally. But I loved her, and although she wasn’t an affectionate dog, I like to think she loved me, too. If you’d like to find out, it’s available for pre-order now www.suekittow.com.
And also, after three weeks of limping, this is Lainy's fourth day (I hope) of not limping. Fingers crossed she's on the mend!
Wednesday 19 October 2022
Poor girl became lame when we were in North Devon, where we had a much needed break, made more relaxing by not having brilliant weather, and by Jac not feeling wonderful either. We went out every day, but poor Lainy couldn't walk for and we didn't feel like long hikes in the rain, so we had a wonderful week pottering about with some good walks while Lainy was OK and all in all it was a wonderful week.
Lainy went to the vet on our return who advised slow sniffy walks on lead for a few days, but for the rest of the week she was absolutely fine, until she ran down a steep hill and by the bottom she was limping but on the other paw. The vet advised 3 x 10 minute walks to make sure she rests, then as she wasn't getting better, we had to go in again. She appears to have damaged her shoulder so she's still on the very short walks per day but actually seems quite happy with that, as it's obviously too sore to walk further. So we have to leave her behind when we walk Twig or when I walk with my friends, and she must wonder why we're leaving without her. However, she appears to bear us no ill feeling, and is as loving and cheery as ever.
This has to go on for at least another week (we've done 10 days so far) and then, hopefully, she can begin to extend her exercise, but very gradually, so she doesn't wrench her shoulder again. Poor girl, it's not the same without her.
But think of me next Saturday, and if you'd like to come to the talk it's at 5pm at the Terrace Gallery, Penryn this Saturday 22nd October. All are welcome!
Thursday 22 September 2022
The video will go on Booktock and other social media platforms, I am informed by my Head of Publicity aka dear friend Pauline. So watch this space!
I realise, with horror, that my last post was nearly a month ago, and the days have sped by. Apparently we get less and less daylight at this time of year - we're actually losing about half an hour's daylight a week at the moment.
September has been swallowed up finishing very last edits for The Rescue, approving the cover and starting the new website. I hasten to add, I'm not doing any of this but the wonderful Tammy is, and when I have both I will post them. It's incredibly exciting and, as typesetting looms nearer and it's too late to make any changes, I'm becoming increasingly paranoid.
What if people don't like my book? Well, there are bound to be some people that don't, but the thought of it is horrifying. Far more so than for my walks books, as novels are so much more personal. Receiving criticism is always difficult, especially so when I did so a few weeks ago from someone whose opinion I value highly. She made a comment and then said, "Has anyone else said this?" I said, with some measure of relief, "No." For while I always listen to what is said, if several people say the same thing, then it's generally worth looking at or changing. If not, then maybe it is, maybe it isn't - that's for me to decide.
On Saturday my mate Jac and I are off for a few days to North Devon, where we visited in March, and as it was so gorgeous, we're going back. There's also a pool so we're hoping to get some swimming in, though as it's getting colder, I'm not sure how enthusiastic I'm going to be. She's much braver than me and swims all year round. I like it to be hot before I get cold, if you get my drift.
On my return it's all go for a talk for the Falmouth Book Festival at the end of October, then planning the launch party, writing press releases and all that stuff. And all the while I am writing the sequel to The Rescue..... In the meantime, here is the view on the way to singing this morning at Penryn bridge....
Thursday 1 September 2022
I met with a few other authors recently - Paula Rooney whose book "I hope There's a Kettle in my Room" is a fascinating account of her solo travel round Europe during lockdown, age 55. So for anyone who thinks they're too old to try anything new - try it!
Then yesterday I met with Ben Rowswell whose books for children include Cornwall: An Archaeological Adventure and I Spoke to the Sea, both of which are beautifully written and illustrated and a really fun way of learning for any child.
Lainy came to both meetings - last week, with Paula, we managed to find a shady bench with a table to sit and chat and have our coffee. Yesterday, Ben and I met in Boscawen Park, which is lovely but incredibly busy with children on scooters or running along, some anxious looking grandparents, overheated parents, and a selection of other dogs. As Lainy's not used to too much close interaction with fast moving people, I had to keep a very close eye on her, but in fact she did brilliantly.
It was quite tricky concentrating, writing notes, reading Ben's books and keeping an eye on Lainy, but it was very good training for her, and Ben was very generous with his time and tips.
We all believe that business should be about helping each other: sharing contacts and suggestions of where our books might sell - after all, that's what makes the world go round, is it not?
We had a beautiful walk up a footpath and into fields and woods, then ended up meeting a friend in Victoria Park the other side of Truro which is a real hidden gem - quiet and shady with a lovely bandstand, a tiny cafe with plenty of water for hot dogs and hot owners alike. That's my idea of a business afternoon!
Friday 12 August 2022
I wasn’t sure what to expect of this book, which is completely different from Fern’s Cornish based books. This is the story of Marion Crawford, nicknamed Crawfie, who became Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret’s governess from when they were very young until Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip. Fern has researched her subject thoroughly - check the bibliography at the back of the book - and it is a fascinating part of history that most of us, of a certain age, are familiar with. But there is an added twist to this story - once Crawfie retired, this dutiful woman, who devoted most of her life to the royal family, sold the story of their lives in her book, The Little Princesses. Trying to keep to the facts as much as possible, but mixing with fiction where necessary, Fern explores why Crawfie might have done this and how the royal family could have instantly banished her, resulting in Crawfie’s isolation and misery. The other interesting character in all this was Sir Alan ‘Tommy’ Lascelles, who was assistant private secretary to King George V, King Edward VIII, and private secretary to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II. He and Crawfie met at least once, and Fern creates a mutual friendship between these two: Marion who always put the royal family first - she even postponed her marriage for over ten years - yet was destroyed by her book. Tommy, on the other hand, was perhaps stronger and certainly wilier and while he had little of Marion’s respect for the family, he survived untouched. This is an interesting take on a sad, true story, which deserves to be written about. Well done, Fern, for bringing it to our attention. It’d make a great film…… Watch out The Crown… And on a personal note, I received the first proofs for my novel cover. I went into a complete tailspin I was so excited, and nervous, because it’s so important to get the cover right. A long talk to the designer later, and we’re both happy. This journey has really started!
Monday 1 August 2022
I set off for the Lizard thinking I'd be away a few days, as usual, but M helped take an elderly neighbour to the dentist, shopping etc on the Monday, and then on Tuesday they very kindly took us to lunch as a thank you. We went to the most southerly cafe at Lizard Point and sat outside, overlooking the sparkling sea, while the sun shone, the food was lovely and a good time was had by all. But by the time we got back it was getting late and we had to walk the dogs, I was knackered and the day whistled away - so much for getting any work done.
The next day I felt a bit weird in the morning, as if I was going down with a Lurgy. M looked at me, fed me a crumpet and Lemsip and suggested gently that I should go back to bed for a bit. Two hours later, I'd slept the morning away - and I never do that! I slept for the next two days on and off, in between staggering out to walk Lainy in the graveyard. I would add that this is 5 minutes down the road, and I can let her off, so while feeling rubbish it meant she could chase rabbits for half an hour and I could collapse on the bench provided before taking her back.
Having lived on my own for the last twelve years, it was a real joy to be looked after when poorly. Cups of tea and plates of toast arrived at regular intervals, or a little ramekin dish of ice cream. My washing was done. The little, important, things make all the difference when you're feeling rubbish.
So I am very grateful to have had such a good nurse. My friends upstairs rang to see how I was and when I was coming back, as Joe was watering my plants for me, and I received a lovely welcome when I did get back, as well as a bunch of sweet peas from their garden.
So while it can be confusing living in two places at once, it's very lovely to be so appreciated.
I now have to try and catch up on everything here, and get my head back into work mode....
Wednesday 20 July 2022
The other day I came across this - "The trouble with words is that you never know whose mouths they've been in." Dennis Potter, dramatist (1935-1994)
And I thought, isn't that clever? I'd love to be able to trot out things like that on the spur of the moment. Usually I find I think of sparkling, witty things to say at 3 in the morning which isn't of much use to anyone, though I suppose they can be stored for later use.
Oscar Wilde was, of course, the master of wit and put downs. What is it that makes someone like that I wonder? Presumably there's something in our brains that determines the sort of person we become, but it has to derive from being surrounded by people who appreciate that kind of humour. Or does it?
On the rare occasion that I do think of the right thing to say at the right moment, I get great satisfaction. Of course, when we're writing, we can plan those moments which makes it easier for us, and more pleasurable for the reader.
On that note, I am off to look over a short story I wrote last week for my new website as a teaser for my novel, to be published later this year. Exciting or what?
I will leave you with another picture of our trip away, this time at Cape Cornwall.
Thursday 14 July 2022
Most of us don't have a perfect life - and if we did I suspect many of us would get sick of it, but who hasn't stared out of the window from work, wishing we were somewhere else? It might be wanting to afford a holiday somewhere hot. It might be dreaming of a companion to do things with. A partner to be happy with. Someone to have glorifying shout-from-the-rafters sex with. We might dream of a house with a garden. A dog. A cat. A different job. No job. Better health. To live a few more months. Not to live any more at all. The list goes on and on.
I don't believe that it's possible to Have Everything, and actually, I don't see why we should, especially when so many people have so little. At one point I was desperate to have children but we eventually decided against it and I'm very glad we did. Conversely, many years ago, I had a dream job that was everything I'd ever wanted, and that came to a speedy end courtesy of the 1990 recession. I never really got back on the career ladder, and was very unhappy at work for a long time. But I survived, and other things happened. Namely, working for myself, as both my brothers have.
But what I'm trying to say is that even if we don't get what we want, something else usually comes along. It might not be what we thought we wanted, but it's what the universe (or whatever) has dealt us, and we might as well make the most of it. Something, or someone unexpected may well come along as a result.
I wanted to become a dancer at one point. I was on the way to taking Royal Ballet entrance exams but my dad didn't think it was a good enough career. If I'd gone I might not have become anorexic. But I might well have done. We don't know, do we, what might have happened if we had or hadn't done something.
But I still think it's so important to dream. Dreams can bring shafts of sunlight to a miserable, rain-drenched day. They can lift us when we need a ray of hope. They can be the inspiration for a book, a TV series or a novel. They can be so powerful, as long as we don't think they are our right. Or that if we don't fulfill our dream, it's the end of the world.
If we're lucky and we work hard, something may come of them. Or it may not. But still, carry on dreaming. We all need a measure of hope to get us through the darker times.
Tuesday 28 June 2022
I was a bit apprehensive about how the dogs would get on, but luckily there were no mishaps - forward planning has a lot to answer for - although on the Thursday Twig went missing at the end of a long, hot walk, and we didn't find her for about 45 minutes. You can imagine how we felt, then the huge relief felt when a dirty little face burst through the brambles. It was worth getting stung all over, to get her back.
Then that evening, Lainy had a pop at the Fella. He was only going to give her a cuddle but he did get a bit close to her face which is a real No No in Lainy's book and we were both shaken, mostly I think because we were exhausted and worried sick over Twig, so I burst into tears and he was worried at how upset I was, and what might have happened if she bit a child.
There are potential dangers with any dog, especially a reactive one. But as Lainy always wears a muzzle in public, she can't inflict any damage, and I am super careful whenever we're out, especially round children, so I do my best to rule out as many disasters as possible. Even so, I was very shaken and we were both a bit wary of her the next day.
On our way home, the following day, I discovered a tick on Lainy's leg. The Fella said that Vaseline helped smother them, so I put some on and then had to try and get the tick out - no mean feat. Most people would have let me struggle on my own, once a dog had tried to bite them, but he suggested we got her on her back, and he calmly held her while talking to her soothingly. She looked a bit startled, but she obviously trusted us both and just stayed utterly still while I poked and prodded at the darn thing till I got it out. She then jumped off his lap, shook herself and ran round the garden a few times. Job done.
It has to be said that neither Twig nor my Moll would have behaved so well. They would have growled, bitten and been utterly impossibly terrified, so hats off to Lainy for being such a star patient. And to the Fella for being so brave. We've all learned from the experience and moved on.
It's ironic that it took a tick to save the day.
Wednesday 15 June 2022
But after I met with another journalist friend and she very kindly talked me through her entire process - who she'd used for editing, typesetting, printing, distribution, book covers, formatting for Amazon and the marketing process, I realised two things. Firstly, that if she's done it - and actually made a profit from her novel - and be so very kind as to share her contacts, I could do it. Secondly, yes it is complicated, but with advice from other people, it's by no means impossible.
Since then I've had several other word of mouth recommendations for designers for the book cover, for printers/publishers and all sorts. This is partly terrifing and partly so exciting that I think I might burst. I need to research book covers, fonts and font sizes. Layouts. Line spacing. So many, many things that are essential in making sure my books would look professional, and not the kind of thing cobbled together after a few glasses of wine over the weekend. And then after that, the hard work is to actually sell the book and encourage people to read it, but at least some people know me from my walks books so that's a head start.
Self publishing used to be seen as something people would do if their books weren't good enough to be taken on by a traditional publishers. Life has moved on and so have attitudes. Of course, there are a lot of companies out there designed to rip people off, and trying to make headway through that is mind-spinning. But there is a way through. I have a Zoom call tomorrow to talk through possible options, and my novel goes for a last copy edit at the end of the month. Either way, I could set the ball rolling soon.....
Wednesday 1 June 2022
I love her paintings - which are mostly of people and dogs/other animals but with a gentle and sometimes wicked sense of humour. How Mum would have loved these paintings! I particularly loved this one, which reminds me of The Fella's terrier....
She's also written and illustrated a wonderful book called A Brush With the Coast, about her walking the South West Coastal Path with her lazy and narcoleptic dog, Jess. As both were very unfit when they started the walk, it was a challenge in more ways than one. And it turned out that she self published the book, and said she would thoroughly recommend the process, so we had a long discussion about self publishing, and she said to get in touch if I wanted more advice, so that got me thinking...
As I'm researching for my next novel, I recently asked for suggestions for unusual hobbies for a man, and the response has been fascinating. I'm also thinking about what he does for a living, but I know, deep down, that he's a boat builder, because that requires a certain type of person.
My dad was always in despair as I kept changing jobs when I was younger. I have a low boredom threshold and in those days it was easy to change jobs, so I did, about every six months. I worked as a computer clerk at Saatchi and Saatchis, at a new product development company which developed the likes of the Black and Decker Workmate. My job was as receptionist and secretary to the head of the creative department - which was interesting as I couldn't type. Believe me, I learned - fast, weeping into my typewriter till 10pm most nights. I also moonlighted (moonlit?) as a masseuse at the RAC Club in Pall Mall, on ladies days as the masseuses there were men, and they didnt allow their Ladies to be massaged by men......
I've worked for the Youth Justice Team in Devon which involved looking after children going through the court process - a gruelling job that I always said was the best contraceptive of all. After that I ran the accommodation office for an arts college which turned into a university. And there were lots of other jobs in between. After my last Proper Job, Pip and I did up the flat where I still live now - and I have a rather wonky left big toe from where I inadvertently dropped the lump hammer on it while trying to excavate the living room fireplace. I checked people onto cruise ships and also did a lot of cleaning with a friend - we were going to call ourselves Scrubbers R Us until we realised it might give the wrong idea...
After that I did an online journalism course and started working as a journalist, then an author. And I haven't been bored since.
But what about you? What strange jobs have you had?
Wednesday 25 May 2022
For the last 18 months though, since Moll's death, Lainy has wriggled into the canine shaped space in my heart and, despite significant challenges, has made herself a comfy nest and has to desire to leave, it seems. Nor would I wish her to.
That got me thinking about how life can trip us all up at the most unexpected times. And while it can be profoundly distressing, the flip side of that, once we've got over the kapow! moment, is to remember the good times we had with our loved ones. Whether it's husbands, mothers, dogs, ex-partners , sisteors, brothers or whoever, I like to think of that warm place they all occupy that is still very much a part of me.
After all, who was it said that grief is merely love in a different form?
Thursday 19 May 2022
Jac and Lainy and I arrived on Thursday late afternoon, were met by my brothers and shown to our rooms which were huge and full of light, very peaceful given the only traffic was from the field of cows outside our windows. Various members of the family arrived through the evening and Lainy coped gallantly from the safety of her crate, interspersed with long walks down grassy lanes of ancient orchards, a 13th century church and silently grazing cattle. Very bucolic.
The next day was all go - the interment of mum's ashes into dad's space was done by the vicar while we stood around on uneven plots of grass (not good for wearing heels - I sank several inches) but was made more bearable by the children shrieking and laughing in the playground next door. Then came the service attended by about 80 people, maybe more.
My brothers put a lot of work into this and so did the vicar but for someone who isn't religious, I felt that while it was important for them, the mum I loved wasn't there, in the chill of the pews, nor the feeble sunlight straining through the old, stained glass windows. My mum is in the spaces between chapters, in the pause between thoughts. My mum is in my every day, not in a cold church where sorrow mixed with guilt for those who hadn't seen enough of her, and realised it was too late.
More walks for Lainy then we had a family dinner that night which I was very apprehensive about but in fact I enjoyed it, and Lainy coped admirably. Another walk in the gathering gloom, as she'd been in the car for a few hours while we ate, then she settled in her crate while I caught up with one of my nieces.
Jac was introduced to one of my nephews as "Sue's Special Friend", so when talking to my brothers that evening about my anorexic past, she was able to say, "Well, as Sue's Significant Other, I can assure you that she eats more than me now"......There's a lot to be said for Special Friends.... We arrived home the following afternoon after a brief visit to Totnes, I had a night at home and then went down to the Lizard to see the Fella. By this time I was feeling quite dizzy, having spent no more than 2 nights in one bed for the last 10 days. I would have stayed at home for a while, but I had a meeting with the Fat Apple Cafe at Porthallow who are now stocking my books which is great news. They also gave us coffee and cake which was most generous, and we had a fascinating conversation as the mother and daughter are also writing books that they are trying to get published. We decided to help each other, which has to be the best way to do things.
Now I'm back home, trying to remind myself where I live, and glad to have some time to myself, to catch up with work and friends, and concentrate on my books once more. To my delight, these daisies that self seeded, have burst into bloom while I was away, and I just love their cheerful little faces as I walk up the steps to my front door.
Monday 9 May 2022
It was very strange driving up the oh so familiar route, arriving in Dartington and turning the opposite direction to where Mum was. While lovely to catch up with Av, there was a nagging awareness of something missing. It wasn't acute but a dragging sensation of loss that lingered below the surface, and simmered while I slept.
We had some great walks though, and as Av said, "Lainy is so much more confident in herself" which was lovely to see. We had to navigate Totnes High Street on Saturday morning, which was understandably busy, and she was brilliant - took it all in her stride, which she couldn't have done the last time we met Av. I got Lainy a new muzzle which is too big so we went to ask Steve the Cobbler if he could put a few more holes in the back strap so it fitted better. He did so, chatting all the while and wouldn't take any money for it. Then on to the jeweller as I couldn't put the pin back in my watch strap - he put that to rights and wouldn't take any money either.
Both wished us a lovely weekend and said what a good job I was doing with Lainy, which was very heartwarming. Mum didn't know much of Lainy's troubles, but I know she'd be delighted at her progress, though Lainy has so far always been very calm and understanding around the elderly and the ill.
I got back yesterday and on Thursday my dear mate Jac and I are off for Mum's memorial service on Friday morning, followed by drinks in the pub, and a family meal in the evening. It will be a very emotional time for us all, and well out of Lainy's comfort zone (and mine), but she has me and she regards Jac as a second mum, so while she will need to spend time in the car, we will make sure she gets lots of excercise and we will keep her as quiet as possible and I'm sure she will be fine.
Not being religious, the church service won't have as much significance for me as for others, but it will be interesting to see family that I haven't seen for thirty years, and may not see again. I know Mum would be glad that we're all meeting up, even though it's sad it's taken Mum's death to bring us all together.
There's also the fact that the day we all remember Mum will be Friday 13th. But we won't go into that. I'm sure there will be plenty of fodder for my next novel...
Wednesday 27 April 2022
By that, let me qualify optimist. For me this is someone who would rather concentrate on the cheerful or joyous things in life rather than the multitudinous horrible things going on in the world.
I am not going to get political, but I am not optimistic about how the current situation with Russia and Ukraine will work out. However, I do think Zelenski is the best possible example of not just a politician but a human being. He makes most other men, let alone politicians look shamefully lacking.
But back to more day to day matters - or MY day to day matters. I am trying to get two novels published. I am considering writing another walks book. These efforts involve a certain amount of self belief - something that most writers struggle with at the best of times. It also involves perseverance and an ability to develop a layer of thick skin - neither of these sit well with dodgy self belief. Most writers, artists, actors, comedians and other similar professions will probably know what I mean.
In order to keep on trying, we all need hope. This is akin to self belief, of course, but we need to believe that one day someone will love our book(s) as much as my editor does. That someone will fall in love with our most recent painting; that we will be picked for the next TV drama, or Netflix funny.
There are days, when my energy levels are low, when hope goes into a nosedive. Since mum died, I haven't been able to think about starting my next novel. I know what it will be, but I can't go there just yet. And that's OK. Losing a parent is a Big Thing and something that will, no doubt, appear in the next novel, or short story, or piece I write.
Other days, I am fired with enthusiasm. I re-read the lovely words my editor said about The Rescue and I believe that the right person will agree with her. Until then I will keep trying because I believe in my story, and I believe in hope.
For what is life without hope?
Wednesday 20 April 2022
"I can't imagine you being shy," said a close friend, when I told her about a paralysing fit of shyness that struck me yesterday. "I normally have trouble shutting you up!"
Methinks she does exaggerate a little, but it's true for the most part, I outgrew my childhood shyness. And yet suddenly, like a Cornish burst of rain, it can appear from nowhere. And it did, yesterday, to the point where I very nearly got up and left, which would have made me feel much worse, and would have looked odd. So I stayed, and I relaxed a bit and things improved.
I daresay the people I was with probably found the situation a bit strange, too, but it's always difficult to tell when you don't know them.
Of course I'm not shy when it comes to writing - well, it's so much easier to write things down, I find. Also, I can write something, then leave it. Come back to it and tweak it. Cut paragraphs out: whatever is needed to make the words more impactful. Also, I think that if I'm sending an email, or a letter, the recipient has time to digest the contents. Read it again if needs be. Especially if it's something that might be difficult, or delicate, to speak about.
Of course emails and texts can be misinterpreted, but I hope that with careful thought, emails or letters shouldn't be. And to me this underlines the importance of the written word.
When I worked as a journalist, I was never shy because my role was to find out other people's stories. In fact, when I asked Mum how she dealt with meeting strangers, she said, "It's easy. Just ask them about themselves." Which come to think of it, is what I did yesterday. Thanks, Mum.
Written words are my tools to help combat my shyness. I find it so much easier to lay them down on paper, or a screen. To tend and shape them, roll them around in my head to see how they fit. A bit like planting a garden and watering it.
All of this is useful for novels, of course. And as I start thinking about planning the next one, I must remember to write a bit about shyness. Even if the readers aren't shy, it might help them understand those of us who are.
Thursday 14 April 2022
But I digress. Last night I woke up with a sick feeling of dread in my bones. I was on a big ferry crowded with so many people, bound for Australia (I can hear myself singing a few lines of the sea shanty here, but there was no gaeity attached to this dream). We were all crammed into the seats, the aisles - everywhere we could manage - and it was getting cold and I needed to get my bag with my clothes in and layer up. But I couldn't find it. I crawled everywhere, searching for it, getting colder by the minute, and still couldn't find it.
What was worse was that underneath it all was the knowledge that we wouldn't actually GET to Australia. We would capsize and/or drown or who knows what might befall us en route. Nonetheless, we were all there, in a desperate bid for freedom. It's obvious on one level where this dream came from, though I haven't watched the news for a while (I listen on the radio but can't cope with the horrific images at the moment) but on another level I have no idea how my mind conjured it up. And it was the sort of dream that stays with you.
I got up and went to the loo, then came back, and realised that Lainy wasn't in my dream. And I had to relive it, for the one thing that would be worse than being a frightened dog packed onto a ship full of frightened people, would be leaving her behind. Abandoning her. She's had enough in her life, poor girl, without any more. So I had to revisit the dream with a terrified dog by my side which of course made it even worse. And this obviously brings to mind so many people around the world trying to flee their situations in hope of a better life.
While I don't watch tend to watch thrillers (or too much of the news at the moment) - my imagination goes into overdrive and I can't sleep - on the other hand, I think, aren't I blessed to HAVE a good imagination? Ever since I can remember, I've been enthralled by books to feed my thoughts. I've written stories ever since I could write, and never been bored with all the tales whirling around my head. I've discussed them with my friends, and we shared our fears and hopes and dreams. After all, without an imagination, you can't write fiction. So while I have yet to decide what to do with my dream, who knows, it may appear in a story yet.....
Wednesday 6 April 2022
We wanted to get away from everywhere and this was the perfect spot. In the mornings we took Lainy for a walk down the lane, across a field and into some woods where she chased a deer, rabbits and other unspecified animals, and came back panting happily. We would then wander back, have a coffee and a read. After brunch we would head off to explore in the afternoon. Knightshayes (National Trust) had stunning parklands and a very good cafe, we had to do some shopping so Lidls in Barnstaple provided that, and a walk round a community woodland there, and on our last day, which was the day mum was cremated, we went to Heddon Valley on Exmoor which I absolutely fell in love with.
I had one night at home then went on to see The Fella, who was going to join us for a few days in Devon but for various reasons was unable to, so it was good to catch up with him, and do a Flapjack Walk. A stall near Predannack sells the best flapjacks I've ever tasted, so whenever we go there we get a packet which never lasts long. However, having accused him of eating most of them, it appears half the packet fell behind the biscuit tin.....(I would say here that while he is happy for me to eat the lion's share, he would never scoff them behind my back. Well, not all of them...)
I think of Mum a lot. Not in desperately sad ways but more frustration - I was dying to tell her about our trip to Knightshayes which she would have loved. The farm which would have made her laugh. Exmoor, which I knw she also loved. The Salley Vickers book that I bought in Eggesford Church - both of which she would have loved. On Sunday evenings I can no longer ring her (she particularly liked a chat on Sunday nights) and I had a terrible pang while we were watching TV last Sunday. So many things to tell her, and while I find it deeply difficult that I can't speak to her, I have a strong sense that she is near us still. Long may that continue.