The one thing this Covid pandemic has taught us is to appreciate life’s small pleasures.
Meeting with a few friends for drinks outdoors, an al fresco meal (wearing several layers!), heading off for a road trip to somewhere different. Our increased appreciation of these little but important aspects of life is one of the good things to come out of a crisis.
Heading off in our Motor Home for the first time this year felt great. We weren’t going far – just a short trip away to the Lizard Peninsula in south Cornwall – but the chance to get a change of scene was a reward in itself.
We chose a site called ‘Henry’s Camp’ because of its closeness to Lizard village, which has a couple of pubs, cafes and local shops. To call the entrance to the site ‘quirky’ barely does it justice – lots of hand made painted signs, an old school hinged gate, ducks wandering around, little outside seating areas with well used casual sofas and chairs scattered about, a shop selling essentials including Rosie’s Cider (!), a raised area for live music. Think casual with a large ‘C’ and well…unconventional.
The drive down to the pitches was narrow in places but we were given a huge area with a sea view and our own picnic bench. The site wasn’t packed out at this time of year (late April) and it was one of the best pitches we’ve had in this country – incredibly peaceful with no background traffic noise.
Our dog Bonnie didn’t quite know what to make of the ducks roaming around but it just added to the laid back charm of the place.
After a stroll down to Lizard point and a drink at a National Trust run cafe overlooking the beach. we had a look around the village and checked out the options for an evening meal. The Witch Ball – the most southerly pub in England – was our only real choice as it was serving food through the evening and we didn’t want to have to eat too early.
The food was the standard pub-type fare and served up in takeaway style boxes. Not my favourite way to eat but hey – we were dining out for the first time in months! We chose a covered area to sit but with no outside heating, it started to get uncomortably cold. As one of my friends often says, “it isn’t too cold you just need a warmer coat!”. Yeah right.
The next day we walked to the stunning Kynance Cove. You need decent walking boots and good balance on the rocky path down but the reward is a view to die for. It reminded me of the year we spent living in Bermuda, the sea showing off different shades of torquoise and incredibly clear water. While the temperature wasn’t up to Bermuda standards, the sun was shining and what was I saying about those small things? Bliss.
The evening was spent outside the Motor Home with favourite tipples, chatting to some people on an adjoining pitch and then the quintessential locally bought Cornish pasty – but eaten indoors this time! Not as good as our usual ones but not bad either.
On our last morning of the trip we had another walk down to Church Cove which was magical, greener scenery with smatterings of jaunty spring flowers, and then coffee and cake at ‘Coast’ cafe before heading back home to Marazion.
Only a short first break of the year but after a busy few months of projects and deadlines, it was good to have an escape. We’re already thinking about the next one and let’s face it – after months of not being able to plan anything, putting things on the calendar is another treat. Yeah!
My book of choice this time is ‘Just a Boy’ by Richard McCann. His mum, Wilma, was killed in 1975 when Richard was coming up to his 6th birthday and she is the first known victim of the serial killer Peter Sutcliffe. I interviewed him recently for a magazine feature and his story is one of strength and resilience in the face of terrible childhood trauma. I read ‘Just a Boy’ some 16 years ago when it became a best seller and re-read it as part of my research for the feature. The book helped change his life – he is now a family man with three children (something he once believed that he didn’t ‘deserve’ due to his troubled past) and runs iCan Academy, a successful business built on his expertise as an inspirational and keynote speaker.
While the book deals with the long term effects of childhood trauma on both Richard and his three siblings, it is still full of humanity and hope – well written too. In the course of my work as a social affairs journalist and TV producer, I have covered a lot of stories about the enduring legacy of child abuse and neglect. Richard’s book still stands out for his honesty, compassion and survival against some of the worst odds imaginable. An inspiratonal read along with the follow-up publication ‘Just a Man’. (www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B084TGQSJP)
That’s it for now – until the next MoHo trip which won’t be too long!
Here we are then – just about to come out of lockdown 2 with a mix of optimism and trepidation. Hopefully good news on the Covid-19 vaccine front but not before the prospect of a few tough winter months ahead.
The odds of a hard lockdown 3 immediately after Christmas? That’s down to how we all take care over the festive period but if we’ve learned anything since March, it is best not to rule anything in or out.
Still, for those of us who love the festive period, there is something to look forward to. Even if it isn’t going to be the same for family get togethers and social gatherings, we can still enjoy the decorations, celebratory food and drink. Then there is the prospect of a brand new year ahead with the hope that it has to be better than 2020. Let’s face it, most of us will be glad to see the back of this one.
If you had told us this time last year that we would be in the midst of a world pandemic, wearing masks and being locked down for months, it would have felt like something from one of those dystopian novels. Yet here we are and already the ‘old world’ seems a long way off.
Many of my friends in the world of TV production and live entertainment are struggling, not qualifying for furlough because they are freelance or self employed. Nearly three million people have fallen through the net and still don’t know when (or even if) they will be able to return to their jobs, a huge waste of talent and training. Hopefully in the longer term there will be such a pent up demand for live performances, theatre and events that most will be able to go back to the careers they love.
Meantime, this has still been a busy year for me despite the lockdowns. As someone who works largely from home, not much has changed there. Already I’ve been doing more factual writing, including an essay contribution for a book which is coming out in the New Year alongside various magazine features/review pieces. I’ve also collaborated with a company called Butterfly Boxes on a bespoke gift box with a book which is aimed at carers and care related workers across the board.
The latest short story collection book ‘Shorts and Thoughts’ is included in the box, along with various other goodies. Here’s a photo and a link for anyone who wants to send a gift to a care worker they know, whether it is for Christmas, a birthday, or just a thank you, while helping to raise some money for the Social Workers’ Benevolent Trust charity – swbt.org. Covid-19 has shown us just how important our frontline social work and care sector workers really are, something we shouldn’t forget as we begin to emerge from this world wide health crisis. https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/903972491/social-worker-benevolent-trust-box?ref=shop_home_active_1&frs=1
My book of choice this time is Alastair Campbell’s ‘Living Better’ which deals with his own struggles with mental health. Alastair was best known for his role as former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spokesperson and strategist. While working in this high pressure environment, he was – and still is – living with severe depression, which he says at the start of the book led him to consider ending his own life. A bad ‘almost’ as he puts it.
He talks candidly about the effects on his family, friends and on his own everyday life which continues to this day. If there is one overall message it is not to feel ashamed or to remain silent. In the end he sought professional help, learning to understand his depression, what the triggers are, and crucially, how to live a better life with it.
Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, the book is uplifting and informative, with some wry humour thrown in. There is also an insightful chapter from his partner Fiona about how to live with someone who has depression. Then there is the story of a Jam Jar but you’ll have to read the book to find out about that!
Finally, as we emerge from this latest lockdown there will be a chance to take our Motor Home out for another spin. Having spent most of this year with the MoHo parked up on the driveway, we are looking forward to hitting the open road again even if we keep the travel to within Cornwall. Afterall, there are worse places to live – just ask Bonnie dog! (Rocking that Cornish tartan bandana). Photo thanks to Russ Ahearne @hamiltonahearne photography.
Well September was supposed involve a motor home visit to the west coast of France but with the current Covid restrictions those plans had to be ditched.
So instead it was back to Wales and we managed to fit in our road trip just before a large part of that beautiful country also went into stricter lockdown. Which just goes to show how hard it is to make travel plans in these times. Or any plans come to think of it.
Still, we had a great time revisiting Cardiff and Aberaeron but also stopped over at Saundersfoot as well.
The Cardiff site has been a real find – adjoining the cricket ground with lovely parkland all around and you can stroll into the city along the river. Much of the city centre has been pedestrianised and although it was raining on the day we went there, we managed to find a dog friendly place to grab a bite of lunch, with the manager letting us sit in a quiet area inside. (Their usual practice is for people with dogs to sit outside at the umbrella covered tables but it was raining pretty hard!). So hats off to Old Havana in Cardiff centre where we had a great lunch admiring the Cuban wall photos and the fantastic vintage American Cadillac which graced the entrance.
While in Cardiff we met with a cousin of mine who I hadn’t seen for many years. It didn’t take us long to catch up on each others lives and it always amazes me how strong the connection is between extended family members. Something just clicks – a combination of shared DNA and history. We were so busy chatting that we forgot to take photos (no selfie sticks at the ready) but we’ll make up for that next time – my cousin has lived in Cardiff for a long time and has promised to give us a proper ‘locals tour’. Looking forward to that!
By the time we got to Aberaeron in Cardigan Bay, the sun was shining again and we were able to explore more of this little harbour gem. For a small place it has some great restaurants and is known for its honey ice-cream, one of the best I’ve tasted. Admittedly, it doesn’t sound the most promising of combinations and with a nod to Peter Kay’s garlic bread joke, ( ‘Honey- ice-cream?’), trust me it works. If you are in the area check out The Hive – a great eaterie and that honey ice-cream supplier.
After the road trip to Wales it was straight into writing a piece for a social work heritage book being published soon by the British Association of Social Workers. (BASW). My contribution looks back at social work over the decades and projects into the future as well – it is always hard trying to second guess what could happen in the coming years but I’ve given it a go. With my journalism background I enjoy writing for factual publications and was delighted to be asked to get involved.
More about that nearer to the publication date – the ambitious heritage project also features photographs, music and poetry. It is a testimony to a profession which is often both misunderstood and undervalued. Having said that, Covid-19 has also led to a greater appreciation of the caring professions across the board and not before time.
Some of you will have seen a selection of photos I’ve been sharing widely on social media. They were taken by my friend and talented photographer, Russ Ahearne and feature the latest book ‘ Shorts and Thoughts’ in beautiful settings across West Cornwall. We recently did some with yours truly, my husband Paul and Bonnie dog, which were taken at our home in Marazion.
I should have known from my time filming the TV series ‘Animal Rescuers’, that animals and photography can be a tricky mix! As someone who loves dogs, Russ finally cracked it – he got his fiancee Lucy, (also a dog lover), to get Bonnie to sit down beside her. When Lucy thought the time was right she signalled across, gently let go of the lead and moved sideways quickly. A few fast camera clicks and it was done. Here’s one with Bonnie looking straight on to the camera and rocking a Cornish tartan Bandana.
Finally, dare I mention Christmas?!
If you know someone who enjoys short stories then pop them a copy of ‘Shorts and Thoughts’ as a stocking filler. With half of all book proceeds going to the Social Workers’ Benevolent Trust charity you’ll be helping a good cause as well. Here is the link https://amazon.co.uk/dp/B08B38YJNT
To describe last month as a ‘busy’ one is putting it mildly. A new book launch at the start of #Indie Author Week UK, a magazine anniversary feature, swapping interviews with fellow author Jude Lennon, research work and remote meetings – well all I can say is ‘phew’!
Now it is time to pause and take stock, as well as getting the Motor Home back on the road after lockdown. Like many we’ll be ‘staycationing’ this summer, so won’t be travelling far, but any change of scene after recent months will be welcome. Open road here we come!
Not usually a fan of looking back, writing a feature as part of the 50th anniversary of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), did get me thinking about my first job in journalism. At the time, way back in the 1980s, I could have gone quite another route.
Straight after graduating, there was the prospect of a research grant for a university post-graduate degree in social history. It would have meant a move to another part of the UK but I then decided that academia wasn’t for me. I’d always wanted to be a journalist and had even completed an accredited distance learning course in my spare time.
Spotting an advertisement for a trainee reporter in then weekly national ‘Social Work Today’ magazine, I winged off my application. With a journalism qualification already under my belt. (and some experience of working with children in care), the job seemed tailor made for me.
That still meant a tough two part interview, before being put on a three month ‘trial’. In the end I stayed there for five years, going from trainee reporter to chief reporter and feature writer.
During that time I covered everything from major child abuse stories, investigations into the social impact of mass unemployment in large parts of the UK, to high profile court cases and professional conferences. Subjects that I would then go on to cover for television documentaries and national newspapers/magazines,
Looking back over those early articles made me realise just how much things have changed – and haven’t changed – in the world of social work. By far the biggest scandal is the state of social care for vulnerable people, a can well and truly kicked down the road by successive governments. Covid-19 has laid bare the extent of this neglect and we can only hope that it will finally get the attention it so desperately needs. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.
Writing the latest magazine feature also gave me the idea to link my new short stories collection, ‘Shorts and Thoughts’, to the Social Workers’ Benevolent Trust charity.
Half of all book payments will go to the charity which is a small but much needed one. Sometimes those who care for others need help too and if you know anyone who likes short stories, then spread the word. I’m setting my sights high for this one as there is a charity involved.
This time around my book of choice is ‘Half A World Away’ by the talented Mike Gayle. I’ve read a number of Mike’s books over the years and this one deals with the themes of adoption, reunion and loss – subjects I’ve also covered in my own novella series.
Brilliantly written, poignant yet still uplifting, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Written from the point of view of the two main characters, the subject is dealt with sensitively and the story has you gripped from the outset. Yet another great offering from one of our best contemporary writers.
Finally, here’s to a more chill-out few weeks and MoHo adventures. Enjoy the summer everyone – after lockdown we’ll never take those small everyday freedoms for granted again.
You are best known for your children’s books but you have also written a short story collection ‘A Slice of Lennon’. How hard was it making the transition from children’s writing to creating stories for adults?
My writing group ‘The Revolting Peasants’ gave me an additional challenge one month – I couldn’t write for children. Since then I have rarely written for children as part of my writing group but I did end up with a collection of short stories, many of which made it into the book.
You are a bit of a social media star – tell us how you manage to balance that with your prolific writing…
Scheduling! I have a
spreadsheet (how unexciting) with my social media pages and key dates that I
want to post about. It makes it much easier to keep on top of it. Awareness
Days are my friend!
Do you have any writer ‘must-haves’ while you work – music, props etc?
I LOVE music but don’t write with it on. I am a pen and paper
girl so I can pretty much write anywhere and have done. If I’m in my office at
home a cup of Rooibos tea is essential and chocolate if possible!
A question that has to be asked – are you related to that other famous Lennon from Liverpool?
Ha, yes. My Dad’s grandfather and his grandfather were brothers. It’s not close enough for me to claim royalties!
What have been your lockdown ‘saviours ’? Ahem – the cover of ‘A Slice of Lennon’ might give a small hint about one of them…
The outdoors, my bike, laughing with my partner, reading and writing. The thought of getting away in my VW campervan Buttercup when this is over. And the odd tipple of gin – with that slice of ‘lemon’ !