Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Camping - and a tick saved the day

We had a lovely break up near Cardinham on a quiet campsite encircled by tall trees, looking out over a tapestry of fields, woods and two elderly donkeys. A perfect little place with very friendly owners and visitors.

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

Research into self publishing

I have been sending out submissions for novels and a possible walks book to various agents and publishers and several have got back to me suggesting self publishing. In addition, I have met several people who have self published their books and all of them recommend the process, though it is complex and selling books is hard. Well, I know that from my walks books so there's nothing new there.

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

Planning - and unusual jobs

The above sculpture is at Princess Pavilions, where I went on Sunday for very good brunch from their community kitchen, before a long stomp at Constantine, and then a visit to Sasha Harding's Open Studios near Penryn.

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

Old Loves and New

Those of you who know me, know who this is - the stroppy, indomitable, grouchy, charming Moll. I know those adjectives sound contradictory, but she was, and like most dog lovers, I loved her with every inch of my soul (if that's mixed metaphors, I don't care. I did.).

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.

However, I have to say my heart wobbled this morning. After an early appointment at the dentist, I took Lainy for a walk at College Woods in Penryn and on our return to the car, bumped into an old singing friend, Jilly, with her young dog, Eric. I daren't show a picture of him here, but suffice it to say that he looked so like Moll I could have scooped him up and taken him home. Instantly Thankfully, Lainy seemed unaware of the adulterous nature of my heart, and continued to sniff around for scattered items of food on the ground. I feel guilty just writing this, for it has nothing to do with my love for her, but oh - Eric. My heart is yours. though of course really it's Moll's.

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

Mum's Service - and My Special Friend

This was the setting for our family gathering for mum's memorial service - or rather, this is where we all stayed. An amazing rabbit warren of a 13th century pub that is now run as an Airbnb - so we had to provide our own food and drink. In fact I worked here as a teenager, carting trayfuls of soup and rolls through swing doors, down a flight of steep steps, through another swing door, through the dark corridors and often out into the garden over the road, which was part of an old orchard where apples lay hidden in the grass, just waiting to trip me up - and spill the soup. But that's another story.

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

Two Devon trips

My dear friend Av and I meet every six months, and as she is what Mum called "my second daughter", we would meet near mum's care home for the weekend and take Mum out every day. We booked last weekend months ago, and Mum was really looking forward to it - as were we, but of course life - or rather, death - decided otherwise.

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

Hope

I am, The Fella says, an Optimist. Having suffered from chronic depression in the past, it certainly wasn't a tag that would have applied to me then. But now? Yes, I suppose I am.

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

Shyness



"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

Dreams

This picture has nothing to do with my dream, I would just like to say, but if viewed in a certain light, it could have sinister undertones. And what is the imagination for, if not picking up undertones and overtones?

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

Holidays, Mum and stuff.....

Our much postponed holiday was fabulous. Beara Farm stables are on a remote, working farm so the traffic consisted on a parade of ducks across the farmyard, two cats who stalked by superciliously, in front of Lainy's Window Seat, the odd tractor and a few of the farm dogs.

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.

It was a mix of Dartmoor and Cornwall - my favourite places - with huge, scree covered hills on either side, leading to a secret beach and an old lime kiln at the bottom. I would love to explore Exmoor so that's something to look forward to.

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.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

H-h-h-holiday???

We saw the first blackthorn blossom on Saturday, and what a joy it was. I've been feeling as if I've been run over by a steamroller since Mum's death, and my brain is devoid of inspiration - not surprising really, but it was lovely to spend the weekend with the fella and utterly relax.

Well, I say relax, but due to Lainy's insecurities, I decided it would be better for Lainy to sleep in the living room, so I'd got her used to that at home, but we needed to get her used to it at his place. A friend who's very experienced in looking after rescue dogs said I would need to sleep on the sofa with her for a few nights to get her used to it, so just when I could really have done with a cosy cuddle in bed, I spent part of three nights on a sofa. Not much sleep, but there are advantages - a) a bed feels SO comfy after a sofa b) the cuddles were even better and c) it's done the trick - Lainy is quite happy sleeping on his sofa when I'm not there. So, job done.

On Monday it was such a gorgeous day, and I was still brain dead, so he suggested we walk over the fields to the Halzephron pub, an hour's walk away, for a late lunch. It was utterly wonderful - warm enough for a summer's day, a treat of lunch sitting outside, and a lovely wander home.

I have been stunned by the wonderful messages and kindness from friends near and far to do with Mum. The flat looks like a florist, and my goodie parcel - like a hamper - was one of the most thoughtful and kind presents I've ever had. So a huge thank you to everyone.

Lastly, on Saturday my friend Jac and I are hoping - fourth time lucky - to go away for our much postponed holiday. Hoping to god neither of us gets ill before then.... Poor Jac broke her shoulder so that was the first postponement, then she got a horrible chest infection, and we shifted it from early to mid February. Then she didn't recover for ages so we postponed it from late February to late March. We were due to take Mum out for lunch next week so that will be a bittersweet day, but we will do something else to celebrate her life.

I hope everyone is able to enjoy the sunshine which brings a bit of cheer to a very gloomy world at present. Here's to everyone who helps make it a better place.

Thursday, 17 March 2022

Safe journey, Mum

I am viewing life through a veil of disbelief at the moment. Last Tuesday I had a long chat with mum about what we were both reading, and she was delighted that she'd received some new books in the post, and looking forward to a book that I'd ordered for her, that I knew she would love. It wasn't long before Jac and I were coming up for a week's holiday and were going to take her out for lunch.

But on Thursday morning we were told that she'd gone into hospital with a suspected heart attack that was, in fact, a stroke. A dear friend came with me on Friday to drive up and see her - I am the nearest, and thanks to Covid, hospitals only allow one visitor per patient. Mum was asleep when I got there, hooked up to a monitor that bleeped and winked as it tried to lower her blood pressure. I was frustrated that, having got there, she didn't wake up, but I held her hand, stroked her forehead and kissed her so she knew I was there.

There was a reasonable chance she'd recover, given her medical history, but on Sunday she deteriorated so visiting was relaxed and my youngest brother drove down to see her, with my older brother arriving on Monday morning - his son's birthday was on Sunday and all his family were gathering for that. Darling Mum waited until Jo got there and literally minutes later, while the sun streamed in through the window by her bed, she slipped away.

We are all stunned as you can imagine. How could my vibrant, frail, indomitable, clever, kind and wise Mum just - not be there? None of it makes sense. So I do what I can. Of course, I write to her.

My brain doesn’t want to accept the fact that you’re not here any more, Mum. I roll the words around in my mouth - “my mum is dead” and they won’t make sense. They feel like cold marbles, clunking and clashing against my teeth. They shouldn’t be in my mouth at all and they’re damaging the enamel - and then a huge chunk of tooth breaks off.

By my phone, which is on the table in the window, looking out over Flushing and the docks, is a scrap of paper with “Mum” and your landline number on it. You’re the only person I ever rang from my landline and I keep wanting to pick it up and ring you. Talk to you about "The Dictionary of Lost Words", and the Olive Ketteridge books that I got Ben to send you. You would have loved those, I know. Now the phone sits looking lost and alone, and I can’t bear to throw away that scrap of paper.

But through writing to you, I am keeping you alive. For that is what we do with those we love, isn't it? Keep them alive in our hearts.

Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Rejections, competitions and another blow - but keep going

We all get weeks when things go wrong, don't we? Last week I had my first rejection for The Rescue, the novel I've just started to send out. It was a real blow, particularly as it came on the first weekend I'd decided to spend at home for two months, so I didn't see The Fella. The email arrived on Saturday afternoon, so took me completely by surprise, and I could have used a very large cuddle. All you writers out there can imagine how I felt.

The next thing was that a stockist I hoped would take my books emailed to say they needed a bigger discount which I couldn't afford, given the price I pay my publishers for my books.

Then last night at around 6pm I had a phone call from the company where I've been doing some temporary admin work for the last six weeks. Last Friday I was asked if I'd like to continue, and to provide cover for when the full time admin person is away/off sick etc. I said yes - it's very close to home, and the hours fit in with my writing. I went home feeling cheerful - at least with the horrendous rise in bills, this would provide a welcome and necessary buffer.

Anyway, the phone call last night was to say they wouldn't be needing me at all as from now - and I was due to go in tomorrow and Friday. "What?" I said, confused and wondering if I'd heard right. We had a long phone call and I explained that I was very surprised, given the conversation I'd had on Friday, but it appears that's how things are at the moment. Again, I think you can imagine how I felt.

But amongst all this, there were gems of kindness. A friend took me out for a birthday bowl of soup and walk at the weekend. Another friend, who is a very talented dressmaker, altered a pair of dungarees that I'd been given and refused any money. They look amazing so I can't wait to wear them - and give her a bottle of wine.

As for the writing side of things - well, I licked my wounds, felt sorry for myself and have sent it off to two novel writing competitions. I also had an email from the editor I've been working with which ended up saying, "Stay Strong. It’s a long old slog, but it’s a great book. Keep your chin up, and keep going!"

I think I will print that out and look at it whenever my resolve falters. And good luck to everyone else out there who is struggling - all around the world - with struggles small, large and life threatening.

Thursday, 3 March 2022

Surprises and Finishing Editing

For the first time in about a month we had a weekend of good weather which always lifts my spirits - and that of the poor fella, who is trying to build a garage and the recent storms and general winter low pressure have put the kybosh on that. So we had two lovely walks, and oh, the joy of walking with sun on our faces - or backs, on the way home.

I also had some really lovely birthday surprises. First of all, a birthday cake complete with candles. That was the first time I've had a cake in many years so I was really delighted.

Then, the next day a friend who lives in the top flat came down with a huge bunch of yellow roses, which happen to be my favourite. I was so delighted, I can't tell you.

I have had other surprises that have been less than pleasant, but there's enough of that in the news, so I won't dwell on those. The other good news is that I've very nearly finished what I hope is my last draft of the Moll book. Which means soon I can start sending it out. And, as most authors know, that is very scary and exciting at the same time.

The other thing I went to the Falmouth Bookseller to listen to Charlie Carroll talking about his novel The Lip - a real live author talk, with real people, in a real live bookshop - with wine! It was such a novelty... and one of the questions that came up was, when do you know when to stop editing? When indeed? Charlie said if it was down to him, he'd still be editing, and I feel rather the same. It's really difficult to tear ourselves away from our characters, but sooner or later it has to be done.

I have to check the last three scenes to make sure I'm happy with them, and then I will start sending it out into the wide world.... with lots of crossed fingers and toes.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Birthdays

Last week I had a drink with my dear friends upstairs who were, respectively, 80 and 50 within three days of each other. The older one was, understandably, less excited about celebrating his birthday than the 50 year old.

You might assume that this lack of enthusiasm is because of his age, but in fact my mum, who will be 94 this year, loves celebrating her birthday. So I think it's maybe partly male/female attitudes, but also that some of us are glass half full and some are half empty.

Personally, I think well let's celebrate being here. Having made another year. Enjoying time with my nearest and dearest. Yes, I'm another year older, but that's an achievement, for all those that haven't made it this far.

I don't like parties, much, so I'd rather spread my birthday out and celebrate with one or two friends at a time. For instance, mine is next Monday and Jac and I were due to be in Devon, and were going to take my mum out for lunch. That isn't happening now, so I thought I'd have a quiet day with the Fella. Looks like not - first of all another writer friend emailed me to say that an author is giving a talk at the Falmouth Bookseller on his novel which is set in Cornwall. It's at 6pm, is free and we get a glass of wine, so of course it would be rude not to go.

Then Jac - who is cautiously improving - said, "I've got to see you on your birthday," so we've arranged to meet for a coffee in the afternoon as she may not be able to walk far.

Then another friend said several of us should meet for a drink after the talk I'm going to. This is all getting rather complicated and, I think, could be exhausting, so I may change that last one to later in the week. Another friend is taking me to Lamorna Pottery another day that week - you see what i mean about spreading it out? That means I get to have lots of little celebrations. And really one of my favourite ways to celebrate is with good friends, an interesting walk and a coffee and cake half way through.

But how lucky am I to have such dear mates who want to celebrate my birthday with me?

Thursday, 17 February 2022

Patience and Postponed holidays



I am not renowned for my patience, as my friends know. When buying something online I tend to skim the details, say "that'll do" and click Buy. It was the same with swapping the van for a smaller, older car. We test drove this car and I said, "That'll do." My fella said, "But you've only driven this one - don't you want to try any more?" I said No and that was that. This does not, of course, always result in good buys. M says read the reviews, so I have been doing that, but it's very against my nature.

To continue the Patience theme, my dear mate Jac and I were supposed to be on holiday in Devon this week. Well, given the weather that's no bad thing but even so, the holiday was postponed from September when she broke her shoulder. Two weeks ago she contracted a virus that makes covid look like a walk in the park and she has been in bed ever since which is unheard of. And as an ex-nurse she says she makes a very bad patient....

She's still no better, despite two lots of antibiotics and so we've had to postpone our holiday for the third time - now till the end of March. We were due to go at the end of February and take my mum out for lunch on my birthday, but that isn't going to happen as Jac's not well enough to get out of bed, let alone go away.

If I was a religious person, I'd pray, but I'm not. Still, let's hope that this bloody virus will leave her alone very soon and so she can start to improve and enjoy life again. I'm inwardly screaming on her behalf - so if anyone needs patience, it's her. Or perhaps that should be me...

In the meantime, here's a soothing picture from Tremayne Quay, taken at the weekend...

Tuesday, 8 February 2022

Two steps forward, one step back

Until I had a reactive dog like Lainy I would look at other people whose dogs were barking and lunging and going bonkers and think, as many others do, “Why can’t they control their dog?”

Now, I realise that it’s not that simple.

I was listening to a video by Susan Garrett the other day on this topic which was invaluable. From her I learned that there are four basic reactions to frustration - and we are the same as dogs in this respect. Rage, suppression, persistence or regression (doing what worked the first time we got frustrated).

Imagine you’ve had a really bad week and it comes to Friday, and you’re knackered, have to do the shopping and decide to treat yourself to a nice bottle of wine - or whatever. On the way out, one of the shopping bags slips and your precious much looked forward to bottle (or whatever) smashes on the floor. Your treat lies in a pool of undrinkable wine and shards of glass. Some bright spark comes along and says, “Cheer up love, it may never happen,” and you shout, “It already has!” They sound affronted and say, “Calm down, love,” which actually makes it worse…… and on it goes.

Dogs are the same - if they overreact and we get tense, shout at them, or tug or try and control them, it doesn’t help - they’re flooded with adrenaline so they can’t respond.

It requires patience, training, persistence and lots of love to deal with a reactive being, whether it’s four legged or two. It can be frustrating, bloody hard work and there are times when I could howl with exhaustion. On the other hand, when she gains confidence and becomes more relaxed and doesn’t need to over react, it’s fantastic and makes it all worthwhile.

I love Lainy to bits and she has come so far, but sometimes, as happened last weekend, we had a few incidents and I was beside myself and thought, “Oh GOD, Lainy!”

Talking to my dear friend Av later, she said, “But she’s come so far, you know she has. It’s two steps forward and one step back” and I nearly wept - because she understood.

Other people don’t know about the steps forward, they only see the step back. So next time you see a person, or someone with a dog who’s over reacting, don’t react like I used to do - think of what happens behind the scenes.

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Who'd buy a new (secondhand) car ....

This was taken at Lizard Point on Monday after a busy day looking for used cars. Afterwards, we (and the dogs) badly needed food then a relaxing walk in beautiful surroundings, and this was taken at the old lifeboat station, the picture taken just before the sun started setting. A perfect antidote to the day.

Actually it hadn't been too bad, but as I know nothing about cars, I'm always wary. I just want four wheels that are reliable and economical and I don't mind what it looks like - I just don't want to have to worry about it. And of course, having my fella there helped no end. You can almost see people's eyes light up when they see Single Woman On their Own approaching..

We've had a few hiccups since I saw the car on Monday, but fingers crossed, I can swap over cars on Friday. As a friend said yesterday, "It will be strange seeing you drive a normal car!" - I've driven a van for about 15 years now and I did love my old van, but they are no longer economical and the tax and insurance are high, so I need to down downsize accordingly.

You might think that this has nothing to do with writing. Well, it does as hunting for cars and dealing with all the adnim involved takes away writing time - though I have found I can edit better at my fella's house as there are none of the other zillion things that need doing at home. I had a really good morning's editing yesterday, and despite having spent nearly all this morning sorting out insurance, tax etc. and now writing this, a car is vital to me and Lainy so it's be a huge relief to get that sorted.

Last night I had a Zoom call with some of the other writers I went to Spain with two years ago (what a thought - two whole years!) and it was great to discuss problems with our novels, what we should do, how to sort them etc. And now, when I've finished writing this, I can finally get on with editing.

Here's to a good week for everyone - the sun actually appeared for five minutes just now. It's gone again, but a brief sighting made all the difference, though Lainy doesn't care. She just sleeps through all the hassle...

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Banishing January Blues


I'm normally a kind of glass half full person, but for some reason, recently I've really been struggling. Part of it is the good old Cornish winter weather which, let's face it, I'm used to. But this year I am finding the lack of sunlight really dispiriting. I know - I'm not complaining. We're lucky not to have had wall to wall rain as well as grey, as we do most winters, but even so....

So what do you do to banish the winter blues? Well, this is what I've been doing. Last Tuesday my dear friend Jac and I did a dash up to Devon and back to take my mum out for lunch. It was a full on day but she really enjoyed it, though as we took her back, she said, "I've been looking forward to this for so long, and now it's over." I think you can imagine how we both felt, but we are seeing her again in a few weeks.

I've been struggling to find enthusiasm for editing my novel which is not like me at all, but I am keeping on, and news of some part time work appeared so I will keep my fingers crossed about that. Another dear friend wrote me a long list of what I'd achieved last year work wise which instantly made me feel better, so many thanks to Pauline for that.

The sun came out on Friday - hooray! So I met another friend for a walk and bacon baps and that cheered me no end. On Sunday Jac and I went to have a bowl of soup with my cousins in Penzance which is always stimulating company and they commented on how much more relaxed and confident Lainy was - and that cheered me no end. All that hard work is paying off! Afterwards we went to Godolphin for a walk and despite the cold and the grey, it wove its magic around us.

And afer that, it was really lovely to get back to my fella's place, where it was cosy and warm, the oven was on ready for our dinner, and he lit the fire. That really made my day.

Come to think of it, I had a really busy week. What does everyone else do to Banish the Blues?

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Memories

I’ve been looking through a load of old photos that one of my brothers canned in from a random selection found in Mum’s collection - pictures and slides dating back from when my parents were first married, to old holidays, lots of the three of us growing up - can you can imagine the memories that have popped up.

Some terrific - and embarrassing - ones of my brothers, as little boys - to me and my best friend Lin, and the only one of me that I really like of me, aged about 8, doing a (very good, though I say it myself) handstand on the beach. When my technical skills have improved, I will share this picture, but my imac won't oblige right now...!

Isn’t it wonderful how an image can provoke an instant response - for instance, that handstand, feeling the gritty wet warmth of the sand in my fingers? The thudding rush of blood to my head. Arching my back, tipping my body ever so slightly in a struggle to get the perfect balance. Stretching my feet so my toes pointed skywards, while someone - my mum probably - clicked the camera.

Other pictures - remembering my paternal grandparents. Wasn’t my grandpa a handsome man? Wasn’t my grandmother a big woman - till she had gallstones and shed lots of weight, lost her husband (he died) and she became an outspoken woman…..

Memories are such powerful things, aren’t they? They can provide a perfect trigger for novels, a poem, short story, film - anything that takes our imagination.

But this was one from yesterday, when my dear friend Jac and I took my mum out for lunch. She’s doing amazingly well for 93 - nearly 94 - and I hope I will look back on this in years to come, with very happy memories of a special lunch.

Thursday, 13 January 2022

Competition and van trouble



As I write, I have just sent off my novel, The Rescue, to a competition that would be oh so amazing to win, or at least get shortlisted for. I've done all I can to get it into good shape, gone over it, had four eagle eyed friends go over it as well, and now - off it's gone into the ether. I've done all I can, now I must get on with editing the rest of it and hope for the best.

My sense of achievement was somewhat marred by not much sleep last night. A warning light came on the dashboard of my van yesterday and I was told by one mechanic, "it's probably OK to drive but we can't see it till next week," while the other one said, "could be mechanical failure and it might have to go to the Fiat dealer." You can possibly imagine why I didn't sleep much.

I rely on wheels so much, notably for walking Lainy, and seeing my fella who lives a 40 minute drive away, so as it's being looked at tomorrow, all I can do is cross my fingers and hope for the best. More crossing of fingers....

But the fella will come and pick me up tomorrow if needs be, and on Tuesday a friend of mine and I had arranged to take her car to Devon and take my mum out for lunch. So two of the bigger events are taken care of. I'm not a proud person when it comes to cars - I don't care what it looks like, or how fast it goes. I just want one that works.....

Many of my friends are having difficult times (well, who isn't, most notably in Downing Street...) but let's hope life will settle down a bit and my wheels will return to me shortly.

For escapsim, I had a James Bond session last weekend. I can feel another film weekend brewing.....

Thursday, 6 January 2022

Festive disruptions

I've borrowed this spectacular picture of sunrise at Gylly today courtesy of Gilli Matthews because a) I missed it and b) I think we all need something to cheer us up. And this is spectacular.

Are we all feeling discombobulated after the break? Every year I swear that the Christmas and New Year break won't disrupt my writing pattern - but it does. Big time.

I suppose I needed a break (as I bet we all did) and while being away from home was great, it isn't always restful. I'm glad to report that my break was. I drove down to the Lizard on Christmas Eve, into the village where the lights were shining everywhere, wound down the window and heard my fella ringing the church bells for the carol service. Neither of us is religious, but it was a really joyous sound and gladdened my heart no end.

We had a wonderfully restful time just the four of us (I include the dogs here) who, with the aid of stair gates and a crate, didn't have any disagreements, and by the time we left, several days later, they were really getting used to each other which was fantastic.

Back home and I felt so much better for having a lovely time away. But as a close friend said, "If you go up, you've got to come down," and I came down with a thump on New Year's Day. Luckily my gloom was rescued by dear friends upstairs that evening who arrived with a bottle of wine and a huge candle which we lit and restored sanity to life.

As I struggled with post Christmas lethargy, my editor got back to me with comments about Chapter One so after several days of feeling utterly exhausted, I have managed to summon up the energy to start editing again. The relief! I need to do another complete edit - and having had a week or so off is always good - and then start sending it out.

While I don't make new year resolutions, I am looking forward to getting my novel to the stage where I send it out into the agent world and hope someone else loves it as much as my editor and I do. Happy New Year everyone. Keep well and safe and if you're isolating - which I'm sure we all will at some stage - I hope it passes swiftly and without feeling rotten.