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Sir John Betjeman, who was Poet Laureate in the United Kingdom from 1972 until his death in 1984, considered that St Just in Roseland churchyard was the most beautiful on earth. He certainly had a point; it’s the most beautiful I’ve ever seen for sure. It must be what the Garden of Eden looks like.
The church itself is small and attractive, dating from the 13th century (although it apparently has an older Celtic Heritage). It is its position though, which makes it so special, along with the wonderful plants. Set on the side of the creek with its outstanding beauty, it is surrounded by sub-tropical grounds.
Of course, in that part of Cornwall, sub-tropical gardens are not rare, but there is such an air of peace at St Just and this makes it extra special.
We have made several visits here before. We used to live not too far from the Roseland Peninsula. We were there for about 14 years, and discovered this gem quite early on. Whenever we had visitors staying with us we took them. Without exception, they all found it delightful.
We’d not been back to Cornwall for many years, but we’re now trying to fit short breaks away between our various medical appointments. Earlier this month we had a four-night break at St Mawes, near to St Just. It was a lovely nostalgic trip and we were able to meet up with friends we’d not seen for quite some time. The weather was kind to us for the time of year, so it all looked lush and wonderful.
If you ever have the chance to visit, please do so. It is well worth it.
When I learn of the problems other people have or have had in their lives, I’m humbled. I realise how lucky I am. My worries are as nothing compared to many unfortunates.
Nevertheless, we did not have a good start to 2016, so we’re starting again!
The letter which arrived for me from the hospital at the end of December did make my blood run cold. I have to admit I was scared, more so because it was unexpected. I’d had a CT scan for my ongoing thyroid problems and thought no more of it as I have a follow-up with the consultant in April. The news on that was fairly good, but the scan had shown a change in my pancreas – a lesion. While the doctors thought it may not be significant, I was concerned as a cousin of mine had died from pancreatic cancer when she was younger than I am now. That disease is hard to diagnose too.
Trying to sort this out was impossible until the surgery opened in the New Year, but I have to say our local surgery acted promptly in referring me and taking blood tests. The radiologists had suggested a special scan, an endoscopic ultrasound.
However, the first appointment to see the relevant consultant could not take place until March, so with the help of a mutual society in funding me, I decided to ‘go private’. Even this was not straightforward, as after several false starts, I discovered there is only one consultant in the whole are who can perform this test, whether on the NHS or private.
I managed to have an appointment with him quite quickly and he tried to reassure me that it quite possibly was not cancer, but he couldn’t be sure without the test. I went ahead with the request, but still had to wait several long weeks. If it was necessary and safe to do so, the consultant would perform a fine needle aspiration through the wall of the stomach to the pancreas, a procedure not without a few risks. If it looked like cancer, he would not be able to do it due to the position of the lesion; it could spread cancer cells, so he would not take that risk.
In the event, when I had the test, on the 25th February, he could tell without using the needle test, that in fact there are two cysts on the pancreas, which he believes will not trouble me. No cancer! What a relief, and since then I’m recovering from the stress of the wait. After all, I should realise that I’m no youngster and anything can happen at any age, but I love being here and hope to stay for a few more years yet. My guardian angel has taken care of me once more.
At the end of that week, I had some good fortune with my writing as well, as if to say that life is on the up again. I received a small cheque from the Crystal Magazine as winner of the previous issue. Just what I needed to spur me on to try some more writing.
There’s nothing like a health scare to galvanise one into action. My office (cupboard under the stairs) has never been as clear as it is now. It’s not perfect even now, as I hoard so much, but boxes of magazines, which I had hoped would provide inspiration for writing, have now been thrown out. A lot of unfinished writing has been placed in a pile to be completed; some has been discarded as worthless. I’ve tried to organise my personal affairs so that in any sudden change of circumstances, my dear husband Mike would not have problems. He has several health problems anyway, and he’s not happy dealing with paperwork, so I’ve tried to simplify everything. Not a bad thing to do really and all because of a scare. I intend to continue with the task by clearing out unwanted clothes and other items. We don’t need as much as we seem to accumulate.
Now we’ve had a weekend break away in Exmouth, in sunny Devon, to clear the stress from our bodies, and make a fresh start. Photos are from that area. Happy New Year.
Writers are often urged to write about what they know. On the face of it, that must be good advice, particularly if you want to write non-fiction.
If you have an area of expertise, you are able to write articles and even text-books. If you need further facts there are plenty of ways to research and learn more about your chosen subject.
Even if you think you have insufficient knowledge of any one subject, think again. We all know something, for example about emotions. We’ve all experienced joy, grief, surprise, fear and any other emotion known to man. We can write about any of these, and many writers do in one form or another.
Moving away from the idea of writing about what you know, where would we be without imagination? There would be few novels if we only stuck to our own experiences. We don’t expect that every crime novelist should break the law simply to be able to write their books. A writer of science-fiction has, as far as we know, never met with an alien from another planet. Although their stories must be believable, they are figments of their vivid imaginations.
So, whether you want to write fiction or non-fiction, it’s entirely up to you and your knowledge and creative mind.
A cold December morning in Swanage
The entertainment world has lost a few of its member in recent weeks, including David Bowie and Alan Rickman. It seems to have been a shock to so many. Maybe by today’s standards they were young – I speak as one who is older than they were. The members of the public were not aware of their illnesses. Why should they be?
To me, the outpourings of grief, particularly for David Bowie, have been excessive. His death is sad to those who knew and loved him of course. They will miss his presence in their lives. Fans only knew his public persona, not the real person; to treat him like a God or icon is not, in my opinion, a healthy thing to do. We are all born, we live our lives, and we die. We don’t know in advance when this will be. It’s what happens while we live that makes the difference. David Bowie’s musical talent is undisputed, but as a person we can only know what we read, and not believe everything we read.
By all means feel sad about somebody you admired, but perhaps we should keep things in perspective. We are all mortal.
Snowdrops at Kingston Lacy
Christmas Fireside at Kingston Lacy
The road to publication is paved, not with gold, but with plenty of frustration and even more hard work.
The first magazine article for which I was paid, many years ago, was never actually published. The magazine folded, but paid me anyway. At least the fee was enough to pay my train fare to Germany to visit friends.
Along the road to now there have been some successes, and even more rejections. That’s the way it goes and part of the character we have to develop as writers is a thick skin. Rejection is not personal; what is written is not what the editor needs or wants at that time.
Then there are the editors who never let you know if they want your work. Even if you send the work by post and enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope, you hear nothing. The only thing to do is to send out more writing, so that you are not constantly watching for the postman. Eventually it may be a suitable period of time has elapsed and you are able to send a query to the first editor, but if you have plenty of submissions out there you won’t feel as anxious. (This would not apply if your submissions are full novel manuscripts, but does for articles, short stories and poems.)
Another frustration is when an editor replies to your submission, saying that he/she wants to retain the piece for further consideration. A year or so later, still nothing from them and you feel unable to send the same piece elsewhere. The only thing you can do with that is rewrite the piece if it’s an article, slanting it in a different manner aimed at another publication.
This last month I have had a poem published in a local publication – The Purbeck Gazette. (http://tinyurl.com/qfkxmvj) Unfortunately frustration has reared its head again as I’ve not seen it in print, only on the web. Normally we receive a copy delivered to our home, as does nearly every household. For the first time, nobody has seen one, and even the local library and tourist information office had so few copies that they were all gone before a lot of people were able to get to them. In the great scheme of things this is miniscule of course.
I have also had a short story published in the Crystal Magazine (www.christinecrystal.blogspot.com for details).
In spite of these frustrations, if we’re writers we carry on. For sure if you don’t write anything to send out, you will fail. Keep at it and your perseverance may pay off. Good luck and Merry Christmas to all. We wish for Peace and Harmony everywhere.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of the Internet, but like most inventions throughout history, it can be used for good or evil. Also, it cannot be ‘uninvented’.
On the good side it provides us with a wonderful means of communication which can be a lifeline for the lonely. Think of all the grandparents whose offspring have emigrated to a far-off country where they are bringing up their own children without proximity to family members still in their original countries. How wonderful social media and programmes such as Skype are to those families and friends.
The knowledge we can gain through the Internet is also so useful, although we do have to be careful not to believe everything we read. Sources have to be reliable.
Now, however, we hear more and more about the ‘Dark Web’, a furtive area where paedophiles, terrorists and other criminals hang out. Most of us wouldn’t have a clue how to access this, nor would we have any desire to do so, but nevertheless it is there. This is the evil side of the Internet.
Recently my own telephone and Internet Service Provider suffered a huge hacking attack. Many personal details have been stolen and it is believed this information is being sold on the Dark Web, leaving customers of the company involved subject to having bank details and personal details used by others. Personally one of my friends has lost money from her bank account. We are all being told to be as vigilant as possible, not only on the web, but also in accepting phone calls which may prove to be scams.
Undoubtedly the criminals are clever; what a pity they can’t use their abilities for the good of mankind rather than their own selfish ends.
Our most recent project at the photography group was for the subject to be backlit. I know that sometimes we can achieve an interesting silhouette in this manner, but I wanted to do something different. I pulled out my reference book and looked for a photo project which would fit the bill. I found something like my attempt on the left. I’ve yet to receive feedback from the group as we’ve not had a meeting since June. We start again this coming week.
Since we now don’t have a dog to keep us at home all the time, which of course I have mixed feelings about, we are trying to get out and about a little. We feel as if we’ve been hibernating when this time of the year would be the time to consider doing just that. It was not just dear old Gizmo who kept us at home, although we couldn’t stay out for too long with him as he was so sick and there was nobody I would ask for help in his care. We have had a tough few years with my husband’s health too, with so many hospital appointments for tests, plus some for me. Thankfully he seems a little better now, or perhaps his medication is controlling things. In any event, we have had to try to put small steps out into the world for the moment. We had one night away in a hotel to start with, not too far away, but we were able to visit our niece and her little girl and then head off to the hotel. On our way home the next day we called into a National Trust property – Lytes Cary Manor, near Somerton in Somerset. The various gardens of this restored mediaval garden are lovely, and I particularly liked the Apostle garden with its topiary. Each small garden though has its own character, and is laid out as a different ‘room.’
Our one night away was a success and we felt able to tackle a couple of nights next. We had some work done on the house while we were away. To have stayed there would have been rather uncomfortable as we had to clear all the furniture from our lounge for two days while new flooring was laid. This involved one day when the men put some screed down. (I think that’s the term for it.) In any case it had to be left overnight and some of our furniture was in the kitchen, to which we had no access. Ideal to leave them to it we thought.
We didn’t go too far this time either, but managed to get a bargain break in Bournemouth. We were very lucky with the late September sunshine, and the hotel had a swimming pool. We took advantage of this before breakfast each morning, a rare treat.
Bournemouth is a busy seaside resort, but also with plenty of shops and gardens. The old shopping arcades are particulary pretty. We enjoyed our break away and the new flooring looks good now we’re home and sorting things out.
Since we’ve been home, I’ve started writing again, albeit slowly. I’ve not had much time to do so recently, and have been struggling to get going, but have recently submitted two poems to different publications, plus this morning I’ve printed out a short story in preparation for submitting this. More of that in future posts.
It’s always worth trying to find somebody so hope this will help this man find his sister.
Some people don’t believe in coincidences. I find them fascinating. If you were to visit for example, a barely inhabited island in the Pacific, and on landing were greeted by a neighbour from your home town in England, that to me would be a coincidence. That actually happened to my brother.
A while back I wrote about the coincidence of where Mike and I now live, and a painting by my father. There was another coincidence in our lives. This happened nearly 40 years ago. Mike and I had been married for a couple of years and had been living in a flat (apartment) over a freezer shop on Hayling Island, Hampshire. It was fine, about 5 minutes walk from the beach and convenient for local shops and our occupations. What we wanted though, was a garden, so we set about selling the flat.
We moved to the mainland, which was joined to the island by a causeway, so didn’t involve a boat trip to get to work. The house we chose was in an area called Bedhampton and had a good-sized garden. Plenty of work to do in both house and garden but we didn’t mind that in those days when we were fit and active. We grew vegetables and kept chickens.
Shortly after we moved there, my mother came to stay for a week or so. As we were walking from our house to the local shops, she suddenly stopped and pointed at a large house. ‘I know that house,’ she said. I could hardly believe it as I’d never heard of Bedhampton prior to moving to the area.
It turned out that the house, just one road away from where Mike and I now lived, was the very house where my Mum and Dad had spent their honeymoon. It was war-time, and I think he must have been based at the time around the Naval bases of Portsmouth. There was not much time or money for a honeymoon, so they had simply enjoyed a few days not too far away.
What quirk of fate brought us to that particular house? Was it coincidence or a fluke? Are our lives mapped out for us? Questions to ponder for us all.
I’ve called this photo ‘pretty maids all in a row’. The sailing boats were out in force on Sunday morning. This was taken from Peveril Point near Swanage.
Since 1977 we’ve had a dog, or even two in our home and lives, with just a month or two between them. Prior to that, as a child, my parents brought our lovely Labrador home for 15 years. Now, for the first time, I find our home empty. Our dear old dog passed away last week, aged nearly 17. Good going for sure, but it doesn’t make it any easier.
Gizmo had quite a life. He was born in the Canary Island of Tenerife. He belonged to somebody we knew, and we met him there when he was young, while we were celebrating our Silver Wedding. Little did we know that one day he would come home with us.
Gizmo moved to Spain with his owner, but sadly she did not keep him. We moved to Spain to discover that he needed a new home. From that time, he was my faithful friend; he seemed to know if I needed cheering up or felt ill, and always gave me a lick of encouragement. During his time in Spain with us, he lost an eye during an attack by another dog. This did not faze him at all. I think sometimes as he grew older, it was slightly more of a problem when things were on his blind side, but not noticeably so.
While we lived in Spain, we acquired another dog, Cara, who was born in the wild and her mother brought her up inside the hollow trunk of an olive tree with her siblings. They had to struggle with life, those dogs living in the Spanish Campo or countryside, so we took Cara as our own and helped find homes for the other dogs. Cara was beautiful and she and Gizmo got on really well.
When we returned to England, the two dogs had to wait in the kennels for us to send for them, as we had to find rented accomodation where we could have our pets. What a day it was, soon after we returned, to drive to Gatwick Airport to pick them up. They were as good as gold. I was so pleased to see them again.
Another house move for us all came about after we found a place to buy, and this time I had to be careful that they didn’t escape from the garden into a busy road. We soon made it dog-proof. Cara could run like the wind, but sadly at the age of just 6, she was diagnosed with bone cancer and had a leg amputated.
So, there we were, with one dog with one eye, and another with 3 legs. Cara initially did well, with several bouts of chemotherapy, but didn’t complete the course before she fell ill again and we had the sad decision to make to end her life.
I’d like to think that I will have another dog, one who needs a loving home, before I end my days, but for the present Mike and I need a little break, some days spent on holiday. That and with health issues for both of us may mean that I shan’t have another dog, but my goal is still there.
Rudyard Kipling put it in a way which we dog lovers can agree with:
The Power of the Dog
There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie–
Perfect passsion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart to a dog to tear.
When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find–it’s your own affair–
But … you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.
When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone–wherever it goes–for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.
We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-term loan is as bad as a long–
So why in–Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?