Wednesday, 24 March 2010

When we first came to Lostwithiel our garden was completely overgrown; over grown in a lost garden sort of way with steps, paths, raised beds and walls completely hidden, so overgrown that no light penetrated the window of the downstairs kitchen. Tangled and entwined wisteria, ivy and brambles hung in garlands from tree to tree, this is a garden with very little useful soil, the ground being just a solid tangle of roots. This ancient garden with its tunnels and dark hiding places made it a sanctuary for all forms of wild life and a hunting ground for all the local cats. With a huge amount of earth moving, hacking, slashing and plant rearranging it has become a little more accessible a place. Therefore it has seen more human activity and our own cats eventually claimed it as territory for themselves, and we now see fewer cats. Therefore it was an occasion for comment when Tom saw one eating some bread that had been put out for the birds. Our one remaining cat is now so old she only goes in to the garden when we are out there, and only if the weather is warm so the birds generally have it for themselves.
Since moving the kitchen to the one downstairs we have put up a bird feeder in easy view of the window which we keep well stocked, and have been trying to teach ourselves to identify them; although we have enjoyed the pair of ring necked doves that live in the trees in the garden since we have been here. So it was with some dismay we noticed through the window small downy grey feathers blowing in the wind when we entered the kitchen at the end of the working day on Saturday. Tom’s first reaction was to blame the cat we had seen the day before. The kitchen is at the end of the original wing to the old house which is not at right angles to the main building, and the garden continues at the odd angle down to the bottom where it reached South Street. To look properly into the garden you have to be close to the window, and as we did this we saw the back of a large bird of prey as it left the circle of feathers on the lawn with the body of the dove in its claws and fly away.
The surviving dove has so far remained, but it has left us with a different understanding of the phase ‘feeding the birds’.

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Saturday, 20 March 2010

Uncoated steroid tablets taste exactly as you would imagine poison to taste. I know this because I have to take eight pills a day for the last three days with two more to go. The reason is not clear and the doctor and I disagree to the cause of my face turning glowing crimson, followed by an itchy rash that makes me want to scratch my face off, and swelling in places giving me an unrecognisable appearance. This has happened twice over a three week period resulting in me wanting to keep a low profile.

It was to this end that when Dillon requested to go to the beach we decided to go to the most secluded one we know. I am not going to tell where it is but we do have a paint colour named after it. We travel down narrow country lanes, the sort that are only wide enough for one car and you need to keep an eye out for where two could pass so that you know how far you would need to reverse should you meet a car coming the other way. Living in Cornwall has made me rethink what constitutes a narrow road. Maybe I have just never travelled along these roads at this time of year before but my delight in the unexpected wonderment at the road sides made me momentarily forget my glowing fat face. More often than not Cornish lanes have steep banks on either side; this is either where stone walls have become so overgrown with plant material as to look like a earth bank, or the road so old and well trodden as to have worn a deep furrow into the ground making it lower than the ground on both sides. Either way the edges of the roads were thick with snowdrops, I have never seen them in such profusion layered in drifts up the banks turn after turn along the road. I had expected to see the early primroses but this was made lovelier by the unexpected nature of it.

Dillon took some persuading to do the walk that leads to this beach, he kept asking where the beach was until he could look down onto it, and even then it looks a long way away. It starts with fifty steps then a zigzag path with a rapid decent ending with a scramble over roughly hewn steps in the rock. The day was unseasonably warm with a beautiful deep blue sky, someone had left a fire smouldering but that was the only evidence of humanity. We collected some more drift wood and built up the fire but it was just for fun because we were able to take off our coats and dig with Dillon in the sand. We collected odd bits of broken plastic flotsam that Tom and Dillon called treasure and ate our pasties that were still warm from the oven and a bear’s foot, a pastry stuffed with rich dried fruit and citrus peel covered in icing and flaked almonds, from the bakers that are big enough to share. We persuaded Dillon to make the climb back up to the car park by wondering aloud if he was big enough to climb the steep mountain back to the car, and he did, all the way even finding the energy to climb the wooden gate at the top. It was just a day out but it felt like a holiday.

And my face?; the water blister type swelling is subsiding for the second time leaving my completion with the texture of a deflated old balloon, you know the sort you find behind the sofa six months after the party where it retains the surface area of the inflated balloon while being shrunk to the size it was before being blown up. Trust me when I tell you on eyelids and the soft area under the eye, this is not a good look. Am I going to look like I am 80 years old for the next twenty odd years until I in truth reach that age? Oh please no.

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Wednesday, 10 March 2010

My weekend treat is the Saturday Times. As a very slow reader I tend to avoid daily newspapers relying on television and radio to keep me up to date with what is happening in the world on a superficial level, but generally I am happiest avoiding depressing news, I know it is shallow and small minded of me not to acquaint myself of important matters of state, international politics and world disasters. But I get so anxious and worried by the grief and mayhem my own life then seems so mundane and unimportant making everyday ordinary things seem pointless. So I concentrate on the bits that come with the paper.

I love the magazine and always read Robert Crampton’s ‘Beta Male’ on the last page with varying degrees but mostly immense enjoyment; how much of what he writes is the real Robert or how much of it is a made up character he writes about as himself, I am never likely to know. This week he wrote about his aversion to shopping and how everything has to be exactly right for his shopping experience to be successful, some of these conditions are outside the shop keeper control others fundamental to an establishments ethos. Even though his reactions are complicated and extreme, as a shop keeper I found it interesting and informative.

It was ignorance that gave me the confidence to open my shop, the only real training and experience I had was that of a shopper. The idea of a shop emerged from a statement I made to my husband in a fit of frustration about wanting to fine a shop with the things in it I wanted to buy. Once it was decided to use the space we had been renting to someone else, how that space was furnished, lit, decorate and arranged was decided by what was already there and to create a space I wanted to spend my time in. I knew nothing about the art of shop fitting. I knew nothing about conducive environmental conditions and the science of hot spots for display. All I had was training in textile design with a special interest in arrangement, placement and positioning; which included an understanding of colour shape and form. So when Robert talked about his need of space and minimal goods on display, I compared his vision with my shop. When he talked of how he liked shop assistance to be it made me think of how I behave with my customers. And I realised I probably haven’t changed my behaviour in how I would speak to someone in any shop I’m in. I am generally nosey and interfering and often speak, offer unsolicited opinions, or comment on other peoples prospective purchases; I have been mistaken for a shop assistant (while out shopping) and even offered a job.

So what is my ‘shop assistant’ style? My shop if full of lovely things that I feel passionate about, I love to shop and love helping others to shop and that really is how I consider my roll, to give information, advice and also an opinion. Or often times just a chat, a shoulder to cry on, a baby to comfort, a celebration to share or news to impart.

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