There has been a lot going on recently, so just easing back into the writing business with Bonnie the ‘dog blogger’ taking a back seat again. Not her favourite spot!
A few weeks ago I got a request to do an interview with a journalism student as part of a final university degree assignment. It’s not easy choosing where to focus when your job spans several decades working across print, television production, and more recently, novel writing.
Then the more tricky question. What is your career highlight?
Awards are the thing that many people measure success by, and of course receiving a Royal Television Society Award from television peers was fantastic. So too was making the shortlist for the best UK Medical Journalism Awards for an ITV ‘Tonight’ programme on the difficult subject of early onset puberty in children.
But hand on heart, the real highlight has to be a campaign some years ago to get a change in the law on Unfitness to Plead, with a TV documentary involving a number of legal and mental health professionals. These included solicitor Paul Bacon who became a good friend, and eventually we set up an independent TV production business.
The documentary was based on the sad case of a young woman who ‘confessed’ to murdering her grand father. As she was mentally unfit to stand trial – she had a learning disability – she was packed off to a long stay secure unit indefinitely. Eventually, the real killer, (another family member), stood trial but her case showed up shortcomings in the law where people were found incapable of giving evidence.
When making the programme we found other examples of people with learning disabilities being sent away to long stay institutions for much more trivial offences, effectively being sentenced to indefinite incarceration without trial. Not long after the programme aired, the law was changed to give better protection to people who had been found unfit to plead.
Sitting in parliament and listening to the debates which led to a law change, shows just what a privilege it is to work in a profession which can be a force for reform. Of course there is bad journalism – there are rotten apples in every profession – but day in and out, there are campaigning journalists who take on great causes, allowing marginalised people to be heard who would otherwise be left without a voice.
So here’s to campaigning, investigative reporting and its impact for good.
Now for a strange coincidence.
When attending the Dublin Writers Conference last year, I was paired with another author whose own life experience mirrored a central part of the plot in my three part novella series. We were pretty much randomly selected, so the odds of that happening were long.
More recently, after being invited to give a talk to a local women’s group, I came across yet another jaw dropping coincidence.
The main character in my novella series is a middle aged woman called Debbie McKay. The name was concocted as a mix of a schoolfriend’s first name and another friend’s second name. (Though the spelling is slightly different).
After the talk, I was approached by a neighbour, and asked if I’d named my key character after someone with the same name ‘who used to live in your house’.
Seeing my bemused expression, she explained that the first owners of our house were the McKay family and their daughter was called – wait for it – Debbie.
Looking back through the paperwork she was right – a Mr and Mrs McKay were the first couple to own our property – but, this is the strangest bit, I’d begun to write the story well before I even knew that. Apparently, the namesake daughter is now living elsewhere and I’ll certainly try to make contact.
Isn’t that bizarre? Quite spooky but thrilling.
On the subject of books, there have been occasional comments on writer forums about the level of support (or lack of it) given to authors by friends and family. Some say they get a lot of great support, while others complain – and goodness knows why – that those close to them seem to resent or even harbour envy at what they’ve achieved.
While it’s cheering to get good reviews and feedback, the answer is simple really. Don’t expect or require validation from others, whoever they are. Anyone who has the discipline, commitment and ability to produce one or several books has already achieved what most people never will and should pat themselves on the back for that. If I could have a pound or dollar for everyone who has said ‘I’d love to write a book but…’ (insert excuse) I’d be a wealthy woman.
So to all my writer friends out there, congratulations for walking the walk, getting on with it, and achieving those writing goals.
Now over to Bonnie dog, stuck at the tail end of the blog…
Short and sweet from me this time, as (sniff) most of the blog space has been gobbled up.
Well, it looks like I’ll soon be heading into a radio studio with the rents, to talk about my ‘Pets As Therapy’ dog work. I’ve been told I’ve got to be on my best behaviour and not to put a paw wrong.
As if I would? (Tee hee).
Then I’ll be off to the Leonard Cheshire Disability charity dog show, strutting my stuff and hopefully making off with a rosette or two.
After that we’ve got visitors coming at the end of June, so no doubt the rents will be tidying up, shoving all my stuff out of the way so I can’t find a thing, and – yikes – giving me a bath. (I put up with the bath but it’s not my favourite thing). Still, it’s good to see some new faces and we’ll be taking them out and about which I love – especially if there’s a decent walk and a pub involved.
There’s more TV filming going on in Cornwall, so I expect rent Maggie will be writing about it and that I’ll get a visit to the set. Last time that happened, I was spoiled rotten with treats and pats – one of the film crew even described little ol’ me as a ‘real distraction’.
Not a bad compliment, eh?
Promise to post a few photos when it happens and meantime, here’s one to be getting on with…me trying to blend in nicely with the stair carpet’
Bonnie is back in pole position as the doggy blogger!
There’s been lots going on here and I’ve just celebrated my – ahem – 4th birthday in style. Home made cake and something called Prosecco for the two legged lot and some yummy mutt treats for little ol’ me. (Hmm, perhaps I should re-word that to to take out the ol’ bit? Afterall, 4 is the new 2 in the world of mutts).
Guests of honour were my pal Russ, neighbour Mary, and the rents of course. We hung out in Bonnie’s Crib, (aka the Conservatory), and as usual I did all the hard work of meeting and greeting. It’s what this gal is good at, trotting about and getting loads of attention.
Shame this birthday stuff only happens once a year. I mean, why can’t we have six monthly birthdays or even one every month? Just saying…
Rent Maggie recently did a radio interview for Coast FM, talking about the West Cornwall Media Club thingy which she set up a couple of years ago with pal Graham Buckley. No mention of me in it but I reckon I’d make a cracking subject. I could always woof on about my favourite dog friendly pub calendar, my role as a Pets As Therapy Dog, my visit to a film set, the best beaches around – the list is endless.
Talking of beaches, I joined the rents the other day for something called ‘Big Spring Beach Clean’ where we picked up loads plastic, bits of glass and other stuff that has no right to be there. Lots of two and four legged sorts were out doing their bit to make the beach better. It was organised by Surfers Against Sewage, a brilliant charity that has just been chosen by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to benefit from their wedding – they want people to donate to seven charities instead of giving them gifts.
I mean people keep moaning about us mutts on the beach – and just so you know, my rents always pick up after me unlike some others – but it’s the two legged lot we really need to worry about from what I’ve seen.
Still, a little help goes a long way and the beach looked even more beautiful after we’d finished. Everyone is talking about cutting back on plastic waste and this Cornish patch of the world is leading the way. Yeah!
The rents have been raving on about the ‘Man Engine’ show they went to see over the Easter weekend. From what I can remember – after seeing it first time around a couple of years ago – it’s a giant mechanical man puppet wearing a thing called a miner’s helmet and it rises up to about 40 feet high. Think sparks, steam, loads of clanking noises and you get the picture. He even moves his eyes and I swear he winked at me. I kid you not.
It was built to honour the memory of 31 miners who lost their lives at Levant in Cornwall way back in 1919, when the Man Engine transporting them back up from deep underground, broke down and sent them to their deaths. Although there’s a sad story behind it, thousands have turned out to see this huge metal puppet and though yours truly didn’t go this time around, (once was enough for me), the rents say that the latest show is even better than before.
It’s travelling around the country, so folks outside the South West can now get a look.
A word to the wise though. It’s only for those hardy mutts who aren’t too bothered about fireworks and lots of sparks.
Anyway, that’s it from me and just off now to try a new dog friendly pub. Watch this space for my verdict.
When asked a few months ago if I’d give a talk to a local group about writing and working in the world of television, of course I said yes.
At the time February seemed a long way off and then – after the rainiest winter anyone can remember – the date for the talk loomed large.
Rather than spout on for thirty or so minutes, I decided that a better option would be for someone to interview me and then we’d open up a question and answer session. That way it would feel more like a casual chat and hopefully create a more relaxed discussion afterwards.
Enter Julia, (the person who first suggested the talk), and she turned out to be good interviewer with yours truly providing her with the questions/prompts.
Given the lousy weather, there was a decent turn out with the opportunity to show potential readers copies of the books and to hear all about their reading habits.
Lots of them told me that they still preferred a physical book to a Kindle copy and they mixed and matched genres – everything from crime, to family sagas, romances and biographies. As this was a Cornish based group, they also liked the idea of stories set in the Cornwall and we know that visitors do too.
Which brings me to my latest idea to get out some ‘old school’ book leaflets to shops, pubs, restaurants, hotels and other venues where tourists will flock over the coming months. Of course social media is important but there is still a place for information leaflets to target potential readers while they are out and about.
Meantime, copies of the books are going into a few local stores and beyond. It gives people the chance to flick through before they buy and to get a better feel for the product.
So lots of dropping off book flyers and I’ll be carrying a stash around wherever we go. If nothing else, a good excuse for a bigger and better tote bag!
Before handing over to Bonnie dog, a quick word about the new glass panelled stairway. After a couple of months, it is still looking great and no sign yet of Bonnie’s nose art – probably too cold to touch during the chilly winter time but will be a cool delight in the spring and summer. Let the battle commence.
Now for that quick update from madam herself…
‘Hey folks, why am I being squeezed into the tail end of the blog again – wasn’t this supposed to be MY very own dog spot? (Grrr).
It’ll have to do for now but trust me, I’ll be grabbing back the main stage again soon.
I’ve just had another big hair cut, so feeling the chill. The rents keep saying that I look like a sheared sheep, whatever that is. I’ve even heard the expression ‘lollipop head’ and don’t have a clue what that means either. Still, it’s already starting to grow back and I’m rocking my smart red outdoors jacket – it’s waterproof which is just as well in this yuk wet weather.
This gal doesn’t do rain. I mean, what’s the point of living by the beach if it’s too wet and windy to run about? Nah, I need some sun, dry sand and a lovely bit of heat.
Is anyone listening out there? Here’s my cosmic order – come on, let’s be having some S-U-N-S-H-I-N-E matey.
Enough to lounge on the balcony, demand crushed ice and press the nose against that new glass on the stairs.
Yes, in the battle of the nose art, you just know who’ll win the day and it ain’t those rents of mine.
Woof and out…’
A few words from me this time before handing back over to Bonnie the dog blogger…
We recently had a note slipped through our letter box saying that we’d been short listed for a ‘Marazion In Bloom’ award. There had been no entry made from us, so after making some inquiries we found out that yes, we were on the list and that there was to be a presentation evening at the local ‘Cutty Sark’ pub and restaurant.
It had been a busy few days in the run up to the event and it was a bit hit and miss as to whether we would get there,
In the end we did go along, and I’m so glad we made the effort. The room was packed out and only expecting to get a commendation, we were genuinely gob-smacked when we won the ‘buildings with gardens’ category. It seems that our flower boat and matching garden beach hut style shed caught the eyes of the judges, alongside a public display of sunflowers and pots at the side of our house. (We’re on a corner plot so decided to make a bit of an effort this year for passers by to enjoy).
To be honest, I’ve never paid much attention to these sorts of awards but they do acknowledge people who put in the effort to make public spaces more welcoming, cheerful and colourful. Lots of people have commented on our flower boat and shed as they pass by the house and some have even taken photographs. During the presentation evening we heard about the many people in our town who do their bit to make it look even more lovely and welcoming to the thousands of visitors who arrive all year around, especially in the busiest summer months.
It got me thinking about what it means to be a part of a community and the little but ultimately big things that together create a sense of belonging. Since we’ve been living here, the Marazion Christmas lights have got bigger and better and that’s all down to the volunteers who raise the funds and make it happen. Every summer there is a fantastic Carnival and again the volunteer organisers do brilliant work.
We’re delighted by our unexpected garden accolade and of course we’ll be doing it all again next year. In a world where things can sometimes seem frightening and depressing, these ‘little big things’ that make up community spirit can help us remember that it’s not all doom and gloom.
So thanks for the acknowledgement and here’s a couple of pics to show you before handing back to Bonnie dog….
‘ Hiya folks,
Me again and guess what?
Been enjoying having some workmen stomping around the place. My favourite spot on the stairs has been out of bounds for a few days while the carpenter has replaced the rails and wooden upright posts which will soon get some glass panels put inside. Should look great and I’ve been warned already not to get my ‘nose art’ on the glass.
We’ll see about that!
Then there’s the swanky new stair carpet to go with it and do you know what? It is pretty much the same colour as me. I say ‘champagne blonde’ but the carpet fitters say ‘Panama sand’. Whatever, I’d better be careful about hanging around there too much or I just might get trodden on.
I’m looking forward to Christmas already and there’ll be plenty of people popping by. It also means more treats and trips to my favourite pubs. (You’ll know from my calendar that this girl loves a good Cornish pub).
Meantime, I’m testing out that new stair carpet and will be ready to press my nose up to that glass when it arrives.
Come on, you know the score. Tell a mutt like me not to do something and it will do exactly the opposite.
Those rents of mine should have learned that by now.
Woof and out…’
Hi from Bonnie the very Cornish cockapoo…
This time around I’m going to dedicate the blog to my late friend and regular minder, Leda.
I first met the lovely Leda in July 2015, when my rents were looking for somewhere for me to stay while they were away. (I know – how can they bear to leave me? That’s another story).
Leda had always loved dogs but after her own much loved spaniel died, she didn’t want to take on a full time dog again. Enter little ol’ me, all bushy tailed and happy to play the role of a part-time mutt.
Let’s just say we hit it off from the start. Leda adored long walks and there was a fabulous beach right on her doorstep. She also loved to teach me tricks, like balancing a chocolate drop on my nose and retrieving a hidden slipper. ‘Seek it out!’ she’d yell, while I tried to find out where she’d put the damn thing.
I got to do stuff at Leda’s that wasn’t allowed at home. For a start, she would let me have breakfast sitting on her bed while she listened to her Italian language tapes and I swear I picked up a bit of Italian as I munched away. ‘Bellissimo Bonnie’ she’d always say.
She put on a birthday party when I turned two, with cake and wine for the rents and delicious doggy treats for yours truly.
She even gave a BBC radio interview about me and was proud as punch when I passed the tests to be a ‘Pets As Therapy’ dog.
Leda bought me a heated pad for my crate, a giant bean bag to lounge on and matching Cornish tartan leads so I could look smart on our walks.
And boy did we enjoy those walks and runs on the beach. Whatever the weather, we were out there strutting our stuff and having loads of fun.
It wasn’t all exercise though. Leda loved to read, especially when the sun was out and she could take a book out into the garden. I’d sit there guarding, watching out for predators and those pesky rabbits. If anyone came our way, I’d be ready to defend the patch – well send out a warning anyway.
When the rents went off to Bermuda last January for a whole three weeks, me and Leda had the best of times. Log fires, long winter walks and occasional trips to one of my favourite pubs, the Sand Bar in Praa Sands. If I had to be way from my rents, this was definitely the cosiest place to be.
Then something happened last February. Leda had been feeling a bit unwell and had to go into hospital for treatment. She put up a hard fight against the illness but in the end it took her away far too young.
Me and the rents will never forget Leda. Her smile, her playfulness, her generosity and she was the best minder a little dog could ever wish for.
Of course our hearts are broken but we’ll focus on all the good times we had and, as her middle name was ‘Rose’, there will be a rose planted in our garden named after her.
RIP Leda from your little pal and thank you for being the amazing person that you were.
To quote that song at your funeral a few days ago ‘enjoy yourself…it’s later than you think…’
So, remembering all those fantastic times we had, woof and out…