Wednesday 29 March 2023

Paul O'Grady, friend to all dogs, especially rescues

Image courtesy of Battersea Dogs Home

I woke in the middle of the night and turned on the radio, as I do when I'm sleeping at home (ie not with the Fella) to hear of Paul O'Grady's death. I stirred sleepily, thinking, What? But yes, he died very suddenly, yesterday. I was listening to BBC Five Live overnight show and was struck by how the callers who rang in to pay tribute were of such different ages - an 80 year old who praised his humanity. Several young men, mostly Liverpudlians, who were so proud of him being a Liverpool Man. A young woman who said he reminded her of her nan and the precious times she spent watching him on telly with her. So many different age groups who all had something really wonderful to say about him.

I often listened to his Radio Two show on a Sunday afternoon when driving back from a walk somewhere, and feel that I've lost a personal friend. He spoke to his listeners without pretence, no ego, but snippets of his life, his dogs and his colleague Malcolm, who I'm sure will miss working with him so much.

But for all his work, he was such an ambassador (a much vaunted word, but true in this case) for rescue dogs and cats. I've had rescue cats all my life, and now, as many of you know, I have Lainy, my Romanian rescue. He apparently fell in love with all of the dogs at Battersea Dogs Home and ended up giving many of them a home over the years, to add to his menagerie. But apparently it was the work he did behind the scenes, not in front of the camera, that was so impressive. Battersea must be devastated, not just because he was such a high profile patron, but because he helped so many other people realise the importance of giving these animals a home, rather than buying a puppy or kitten.

The world has lost a truly special person and I'mn sure all the animals he has saved with hold him in their hearts forever more. I know us mere mortals will. So here's a thank you from Lainy, on behalf of all the other four legged friends.

Wednesday 15 March 2023

Learning to Read

I have very few memories of my childhood, but one of them was standing in the road not far from our house, and refusing to move until I’d spelt out ‘Coombeinteignhead’ which is difficult enough to spell at the best of times, let alone when you’re learning to read. However, after that tricky start, anything else was easy, and once I discovered the delight of books, I could hardly contain myself.

I was always an active child, spending much time outside running and playing games, then as I grew older I learned to swim, did gym and ballet, both of which I adored and was good at. So I was by no means a solitary bookworm, but books held a huge fascination from me when I was forced indoors.

The library was the next delight, especially when I found I could borrow 4 - or was it 6 - books at a time. However, I inherited my mother’s ability to speed read, so my books never lasted long, and I can remember protesting when the librarian couldn’t believe that I’d read my quota of books so quickly.

Later on, my parents left the little seaside town and moved inland, nearer Totnes in Devon, and there I discovered the wondrous worlds of independent and second hand bookshops, of which there were plenty. The delight of entering a bookshop with a Christmas book voucher, or with pocket money to spend in the second hand bookshop, where Mum worked. One of her regular visitors was Mary Wesley, and I couldn’t believe this great writer would actually enter the shop where my mum worked. Much less reply to a letter I sent her, saying how much I’d enjoyed Harnessing Peacocks…

All of these stepping stones make a reader, which in turn can make a writer. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t read, or grab the building blocks to turn me into a writer.

So here’s to our libraries, and all our independent bookshops, in particular #falmouthbookseller and #edgeoftheworldbookshop of who now stock The Rescue also available here -