Monday, 28 December 2009

Christmas 2009

I love the fact that Christmas is the time one thinks about all the people that have been special in ones life for one reason or another. I know the current feeling is that cards, let alone letters are a waste of resources and some even their time, but I love sending and receiving them.

Sitting writing cards give me the opportunity to remember and think about all the people that for some reason or another I am no longer in regular contact with, but still think about and want to know how there are and what they are up to. I really love Christmas letters and keep them all and read them several times.

Last years I did not send Christmas cards due to the awful year I had had; a simple and routine biopsy left me with an awful infection sewn inside me that had traumatic consequences that left me needing daily treatment for three months, being on antibiotics for a lot of that time. This left my immune system compromised and I spent a lot of the remainder of that year ill with any virus that passed the shop door. The death in mid December, and up country funeral, of an aunt who was very influential in my upbringing brought me to the decision that I was going to be unable to make my cards and could not bring myself to buy them. It is only as I prepared for this Christmas, which also has not been a trouble free year that I realise what a bad place I was in last year.

The shop has had a wonderful year, and I continue to love it, although the cancer diagnosis my sister had at the beginning of this year did give us all a bit of a worry; her wedding acted as a double celebration after the results of her surgery gave her the all clear. Most of the family were there including ‘the Americans’ my brother and his wife along with their boys with wives and one grandchild; the bridegroom’s son, who is an only child with no cousins, loved feeling part of a big family, we all found it a very special occasion.
The best news of the year was to hear that Lee and Kate will be having a baby in May; especially as my brother had rung my dad gloating he was going to beat me in the grandchild race as his grandchild will have a sibling in June. I am already trying to work out how I can manage regular trips up-country and have made sure I have somewhere to stay in May.

Boxing Day morningI was standing in my new kitchen looking out the window watching the birds, the sun had just come out after a shower of rain, the old apple tree still had rain drops on the branches that flickered and flashed rainbow colours in a halo of sunlight, it was so magical I hardly dared breath knowing any moment the angle of the sun would change and the moment gone, when Tom came and stood beside me and put his arm around my shoulders and we watched together. How is it possible I got to be so lucky.

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Saturday, 7 November 2009

As your children become adult and go out into the world you become less aware of the milestones in their lives. There are the obvious ones, their first real broken heart, their first real home (where they take all their belongings), their commitment to a partner and having a child, but others often happen without you knowing or even if you do know without being there to share it.

Today was one of those days where I glimpsed one of my sons adding another of life’s experiences to his list. I was standing watching him out the kitchen window as in watery winter sunshine (in all senses of the word) in a sky of broken rain clouds that only Cornwall can provide, he dug a hole to bury their beloved old cat; made more poignant as a Ringed Necked Dove flew over his head. He made a lonely figure with his back bent intent on the task, his partner was standing out of my view cradling the box containing the poor cats body. Whereas we as a family always had cats, and in the past some have had to have their last days of pain shortened by vet intervention, he was never the one to do the deed. I wondered if one day he too would watch his son carrying out a similar task and feel that age old instinct of wanting to protect them from hurt, but know the only thing you can do is stand and watch.

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Thursday, 5 November 2009

Today definitely feels colder, granddaughter-in-waiting, who waits here after school to be collected, says she loves walking down the street in the fading light and seeing the shop all lit up looking warm and cosy. We are putting out our Christmas bits in a very low key manner, we do not really like putting them out this early, but other years our customers have said it was a shame they had completed their Christmas shopping, while fingering our lovely decorations. This year they are mainly wood, lovely carved hearts, stars and angels. We have some red and white felt baubles coming from Hatti trading, which trade to support a charity in Nepal.

We can’t pretend we are too sorry the weather has changed to be cooler, as we took delivery of the most wonderful knitted hats and gloves and were waiting for the weather to get more wintry before putting them on display.

We are going to the firework display in Bodmin this evening and grandson is so looking forward to it, his parents have tried to prepare him for the noise and bright lights so it will be interesting what he makes of it all. He had difficulty getting to sleep for his afternoon nap he was so excited, but it can be as nothing compared to how excited Tom and I are seeing through his eyes, fireworks for the first time.

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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Someone came in yesterday and said something to me that I am trying to understand. They said, “I don’t believe in the monarchy but I had a really lovely day Friday.” The fact he had an enjoyable day was not a surprise to me, Lostwithiel did what it does best, it partied.

The event was whispered about for some weeks before we all received the letter, hand delivered, from the town council a week or so before the event; there was to be a royal visit; a visit that was to last two hours.

The plan was to visit one of the oldest buildings in Cornwall to still have the Prince of Wales Feathers, which had just been purchased by the Princes Trust for use by the community. As a grade one listed building the owner is obliged to maintain it and the previous owner could not afford to do so, therefore you could say he was rescuing it for prosperity. The church bells and tower clock are down for refurbishment so he was going to have a look at them, and then a quick visit to the museum before finishing his tour in the mayor’s parlour.

Lostwithiel is a laid back sort of place, but this was going to happen a week before carnival week and so the main street were colourful with bunting and the street banners were up, some shops put out a union jacks or the Cornish flag. It did make people feel maybe they should re-dress the window because one had been pretending not to notice the dust and dead insects. And then there were the chores that were even longer outstanding, like our white granite at the entrance of the shop that was black with decades of dirt and dog pee and had been a task we had meant to do for the last four years the shop has been open.

Different gangs of suited people had visited the town at different times wondering the place with clip boards in hand. As the time neared, the ‘will he won’t he’ be visiting shops question went around the town. A shop keeper came in saying a security guy had been in and checked them out which lead them to expect a visit. No one had been in to us. Then a plain cloths policeman told us we were on a possible list. On the day of the visit, when half the street was barricaded to keep the public contained, we over heard the butchers next door being asked to stand outside to invite Prince Charles and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall into their shop. No-one came and asked us to be prepared.

As the royal visit progressed we heard they had been in the bakers, and sprung a surprised visit on Old Palace antiques, talked to a lot of the locals and rumour has it a kissed from one. After coming from the butchers Camilla was given a bouquet by Luke’s partner’s daughter, and talked to my grandson, there is a wonderful picture of him with his arm stretched out towards the Prince. Leanne said he was trying to hit him, Luke that he was going for his wallet. Then suddenly we were asked if we would like to stand in our doorway, I thought it was just to get a good view as he walked past, but no, suddenly there they were, shaking my hand and going into my shop and looking and talking about our products. They admired the baskets that had arrived the afternoon before, causing a mad last minute rearranging of the shop to find room to put them. Camilla commented that they would have to come shopping here when Prince Charles even asked the price of something. Also it amused them that we sold a chimney sweeps brush, (Luke commented they were not our best sellers), and they also admired the wonderful feather dusters we sell. And then they were gone.

Everyone felt uplifted by the visit, there was a lovely atmosphere in town all day even by those who had ‘bah humbugged’ the event, the Friday early doors pub visit was buzzing with talk about the day, all of it positive, everyone felt good. When I think about the people in my close acquaintance who have met him, and it is quite a few, I realise how hard they work to meet the people, how hard it must be to be smiling and pleasant all the time regardless to how you are feeling (an Officer close to the Prince had died the day before).

I am still no further forward in understanding the comment that seems such a contradiction, but I do thank them for not only saving the Duchy Palace but also for a. A lovely day that was enjoyed by all who came into town that day

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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

It is a long time since I posted a blog, but as a dyslexic words take me time and I seemed to be short of that commodity lately.

But I could not let Lostwithiel's arts and crafts festival pass without talking about it. It was truly wonderful; as I manned my post at 8am at the churchrooms ready to receive the craft stall holders the sky was blue with a gentle breeze, and this worried me. Would this mean people would forgo our inland town for the beach? Would we the organizers, stall holders, musicians, dancers and food preparers have toiled, some of us for the best part of a year, in vain? But as Mike so confidently quoted from the movie, 'build it and they will come', and they did, thousands of them. What a great, exhausting day, someone came in the shop to buy their usual Quinoa and fair trade coffee and said as they walked down our main street they saw a children's brass band, a one man band with a huge crowd around him, tap dancers and flutists. And this went on all afternoon. The mayor's parade started the day off with the town brass band, we had samba bands, drummers, harmoniarists, someone with a dulcima plus guitars and other stringed instroments. The suport we got from FLEET, who were our charity this year, were fantastic, our printed programme was essential and let everone know what was happening when, and I am grateful to all the businesses in the town who suported its production. Some shops were decorated with flags and balloons and a festive feel filled the town, everyone I have spoken too had a great day and already look forward to the next. So if anyone reading this fancies a weekend in Cornwall next spring, look on our town's web site to find our which weekend the festival will be, it is well worth the travel.

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Tuesday, 24 February 2009

I am writing this in memory of a very dear friend who died yesterday. For the last 15 years his friendship has been honest, transparent, unstinting and, I have to say demanding. It was never his decision to come to our house, but it was his to stay.

We first met him when he made his appearance in a cardboard box in a quite corner of our bedroom in the house we used to have in Bagshot. I watched him draw his first breath, waited while his mother cleaned him and dried him of the remains of the fluid that had protected him in her womb. Slowly, as his fur dried his wonderful ginger coat became visible. I had always wanted a ginger Tom.

We watched him grow using our dogs as his play things, soft furnishings and furniture his gymnasium and when he was old enough his mother introduced him to her territory. Between them they ruled their little bit of Surrey, friends were allowed to hang around but strangers were seen off. His delight was to swing through trees in our garden with the agility of a monkey; he could catch squirrels, and often did. Pidgins were his favourites though, but because of their size he could not get them back through the cat flap to his favourite killing field, which was under our dinning room table, he hunted for food not sport. Our neighbours lost their Koy carp, they blamed the heron, but that very large very golden fish in his mouth came from somewhere.

My sons loved him; he was like living with a wild animal. On summer evenings Lee and his friends would sit in the garden discussing the meaning of the universe, and Chilli would hang around like one of the boys. Suddenly he would pounce into a bush, catch some poor unsuspecting animal, kill and eat every scrap of it. They thought him a real cool cat.

He hated to be interfered with in any way, giving him pills and potions and doctoring injuries from things that fought back was a battle he usually won, and then we wouldn’t see him until he got over his sulk; crashing through the cat flap meowing at the top of his lungs as if to say I’m home, where is everybody, come and adore me. A later allergy to mites that live in fur and feather was a cruel afliction.

When he sat on your lap he wanted to sit on your hands so he had your undivided attention, if that could be as near your face as possible that was even better. He loved to be strokes when he wanted to be stroked and would groom you right back with loving licks with his raspy file like tongue.

He never really forgave us for moving to Cornwall, he had never had to carve out his own territory before, he was passed his prime and too many cats used our garden as neutral territory. He did eventually claim it for the summer time but during the winter months he stayed mostly indoors.

He was a big personality and his going has left an equally big space in our lives, we will truly miss him, but the birds on next doors bird feeder will breath a sigh of relief.

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Saturday, 21 February 2009

It is pantomime time in Lostwithiel. I love our pantomime, it is held in the church room and a huge amount of effort converts the hall into a theatre for three days, complete with stage, curtains and lighting. We took Rheanna, our thirteen year old step granddaughter in waiting, and I wondered if she would be in that in between age, where she would consider herself two old to enter into the spirit of pantomime, and too young not to care what anyone else thought. I doubt there were more than a handful of children in the audience, but when the boys and girls were asked to participate to save our heroes every single person in that hall sang or clapped or shouted, ’Look behind you!’ when asked to do so, that included Rheanna.

The fun of going to the local pantomime is the complete social experience, people arrive early to claim a good seat, but a glass of wine and chat to friends and neighbours, you can guarantee you will know at least a third of the people in the audience, pleasantly passes the time until the entertainment starts.

As the curtain goes up silence falls and the audience holds it breath, and it begins, ‘The Wizard of Loz.’ Liz the practice nurse was well caste and wonderful as Dorothy and Yve, one of the doctors’ receptionists was Tonto, carrying matching doggie bag complete with bone decoration; These two have a natural rapport (last year they stole the show and not a word was spoken between them). A regular in the cast, a local architect, who played the cowardly lion was in the shop this morning, buying some of our delicious Pink Ginger cordial, saying how nervous he gets on the first night, it certainly didn’t show. The two witches were wonderful; Dianne in her red leather look bustier trimmed with black fur and Sandra from the chemist was transformed. The children in the chorus were delightful, but the doctor’s daughter, who played the guard to the emerald city, was the one that stole the show, she was a trouper.

As we all tipped out into the black night you couldn’t help feeling happy, regardless of all the bad things that are happening on a personal level and the national economic and environmental disasters promised by the media you really did feel uplifted. Also we felt grateful to be living in a wonderful place full of wonderful people.

Tonight Lucid are playing down the Globe, so there will be standing room only, I should feel too old to party with the young people but I don’t, and even better they don’t treat us as if we are either.

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Tuesday, 10 February 2009

We all have the odd rare experience so out of keeping with our everyday lives, that when we recall it later it feels a little surreal. I find these moment very precious and like to write them down, having done so I thought you might like to share my most recent.

We sell Earthborn Clay Paint that help old lime pointed and plastered solid walls breath.

Tom and I had a rare Saturday off last weekend giving us two days on the trot, what a treat; (a trade fair had caused us to miss our day off the previous week, so we were playing catch up.) We had taken a paint order that needed to be delivered, and as we have had poor experiences of paint via couriers in the past, we decided to deliver it ourselves and explore an area of Cornwall we have not spent much time in.

Our customer had given very precise instructions on the location of her house saying it is hard to find, and without the help of a milkman, I don’t think we would have. It meant travelling through the most westerly stripe of Cornwall, the bit from St Ives to Lands End which has a very distinct character, and I have found it very difficult to find the right words to describe it. When discussing it with a Cornish friend of mine she volunteered the word primeval. All over Cornwall, it is almost impossible to see the stones in the boundary walls that parcel up the land because hedges grow on top and lush greenery and flowers, which change with the seasons, grow over the rest of it. However, here the fields are small and their boundaries marked by naked stone walls; they look as if they have been there since man first started to farm the land; a treeless landscape, a landscape that is stunted by the merciless winds from the sea. Winds that have help sculpt the coastline after sweeping across the Atlantic Ocean bringing with it the changeable weather Cornwall is known for. The narrow coast road, made muddy from the field equipment that cross it, snakes around farms that have shaped it. Every now and then a rough track will lead from it; it is only by the green wheelie bins on the corners of these tracks do you know it leads to a home or homes.

It was along one of these lanes our directions were to take us. I had presumed by our conversation and my inexperience of the area, that the track would lead to only two houses; but as we travelled along I realised this was a road with a dozen or so homes along it, or what would have passed for as a road hundreds of years ago. (Roads in Cornwall have always been notoriously bad; to this day we do not have a motorway.) As we bumped along we could see houses that looked part of the land, in some distant time they had been moulded up out of the landscape, homes made from what was once the very landscape they now sit. Ancient solid houses of granite and cob with their rag slate roofs, where every slate is a different size; constructed with the largest slates, as big as a man could carry, at the gutters edge to small postcard size ones at the ridge. They may have been added to over the centuries, but have fundamentally changed little. I felt as if I had experienced some kind of time travel, a magical moment where I was allowed to glimpse a time we now call history.

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Thursday, 8 January 2009

a new year

A new year,like turning to a clean page in a sketch book, what do we want to achieve? we should all write down what we would like to do, where we would like to go, who we would like to see and make it happen.

12th night has been and gone, and I’ve taken down the Christmas decorations. I am always sad doing it as the house looks so bare once all the cards, greenery and glittery stuff is gone. Then the longest two months of the year begin. Not my favourite time of year.

We do have new colours in the clay paint range to look forward to, Brushmate are also changing the colours of their pro aqua paints (for woodwork) to match the clay paint, although I still love the Cornish range of colours we do exclusive to us in the Green Paints. As there is so much still to paint in our money pit of a house, dreaming of ‘new’ rooms we can properly use, keeps me going. We still have boxes of stuff we brought with us that has never seen the light of day. The drawing room has two empty cupboards in it still.

Little Dillon, my grandson also lights up my day, his mum caught him today trying to put her lipstick on the cat.

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