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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