|I almost look this bad 🙂|
For the first time this year I have a friend coming no stay. No visitors before September is a thing unheard of so I’m really looking forward to seeing her. The thing is I’ve woken up with the plague, added to which it’s the first week back at school and the house is a tip. Now I know that she’s an old friend and has seen far worse and quite frankly wouldn’t care if the place was on fire but I care. So I am trying to run around like a loon trying to make the place resemble a home you would like to stay in rather than a hostel you can’t wait to check out of. Before any house proud zealot pipes up and asks why the house isn’t always spik and span the answer would include the words dogs, boys, back to school, business to run and go away. The problem with today’s blitz is that Thomas hasn’t gone back to school yet so is in the way trying to help and getting shouted at because as I mentioned before I have the plague. The plague struck in the night, I kept waking up feeling a bit woozy and sniffy and just couldn’t get back to sleep properly. When I at last got up I was sniffing and feeling a little pathetic and then looked in the bathroom mirror. Overnight my chin seemed to have developed some sort of festering sore that would have graced any thirteenth century peasant’s face. Well vanity, thy name is woman but I had too much to do, so off on the school run and the dog walk whilst trying to hide my face from anyone I might know, and anyone I might not and small children and animals of a nervous disposition.
The walk along the cliffs from Par to Polkerris was doing me the world of good but on my return I noticed that the air was full of buzzy things. Probably due to the plague my imagination was beginning to get very vivid and with thoughts of recent wasp attacks I proceeded with caution getting twitchier and twitchier. Finally the path narrowed and the air thickened with all manner of flying insects and something buzzed right by my ear. Instinctively I went to swot it but forgot the dog lead in my hand. With immerse force I swatted the insect and smashed the metal ring of Harry’s lead into my forehead. There was a moment of stunned silence and then quite a lot of colourful language and checking for blood. The last time I had been hurt this much was when I swung a windsurf pole into my head. If I have more brain cells I might stop to wonder why I keep banging myself on the head however as my brain cells are diminishing with each attack I fear I shall never know.
So here I sit, trying to get my column in on time, the house clean, surrounded by tissues, my head thumping and bruised and my face a mess. Reader, I look a mess! Hope you are all feeling better and I’ll chat up again next week.
Well autumn really came up on us quickly this year; the early hot spring meant that the harvest was early. September seems to have consisted of nothing but wind and rain making the dark nights seem even earlier and the holiday makers have stayed cuddled up on comfy sofas leaving the streets and sights quieter than normal. All this early hibernation inevitably makes me think of winter and like so many of us I want to get the house looking nice for Christmas. Why Christmas, so many no longer celebrate it as a religious festival and yet it is still incredibly important. This is because it is still a festival and has been for centuries before Christianity. It’s around the shortest days of the year and it’s the start of a new year. We get to pause, swop gifts, get together, eat well and so the dormice amongst us want to make sure that our little bolt holes are warm and snug for the celebrations.
It must be a maddening time of year for the trades and furniture suppliers with a sudden avalanche of orders all to be delivered, fitted and installed by Christmas. Part of the urgency is of course down to the fact that we know if it isn’t in by Christmas we won’t see hind nor hare of a fitter or delivery van until well into the second week of January. I imagine that I’m in a similar position to lots of folk in Cornwall, I make my money in Summer and I only have the time to spend it in autumn and of course if I’m buying a new sofa then I want it by Christmas so that I can loaf in front of my fire watching rubbish on TV, drinking something excellent and generally indulging myself. I don’t want to be sat on my sofa that has given gallant service over the past 13 years but is now beyond repair.
The problem is finding a sofa that beats or matches the old one and one that we can all agree on. The last sofa we bought was a stunner, we spent a lot of money on it and it was worth every penny. This of course was before the children had arrived and we had money. Over the decades it has been a bed, a castle, a trampoline, a submarine and the most comfortable sofa ever, very deep with huge thick feather cushions. Replacing it has proved hopeless, in the first place it’s not something you can buy on the internet, you have to try it out and you have to try it out together. What I think is comfy, Steve thinks is ugly, what Steve thinks is perfect, I know won’t fit. We wander around furniture showrooms with their gorgeous lounging sofas that would look great in a warehouse apartment but honestly how many of those are there around here. It’s ridiculous, we have a nice large front room but I think a sofa longer than two meters will dwarf it. I wonder how many people get their sofas home only to realise that they can no longer close the door? So far the only ones we can agree on are the ones where we also agree cost too much. Well the cost is relative isn’t it. It’s worth the money but we don’t want to spend the money, so there we are. Maybe when the children have left home and we know it will no longer be used as a rugby touch down, a diving platform or a balance beam then we will indulge. For now though I think it’s going to have to be something that will do and be in by Christmas. Maybe I’ll buy a nice rug to throw over the fake leatherette and cuddle down into that instead. Or maybe the sun will come out again and I’ll forget all about winter and leave it until the last minute.
What’s that sound? Or rather what’s that lack of sound? Oh no hang on, I can hear something, there in the background – it’s the collective sigh of thousands of parents as their children go back to school. But there’s also another sigh of relief, this time from the bosses and colleagues that have to try to cope with the pressures that the school holidays bring. It’s easy to think that school holidays only effect families but of course they effect everyone. For two concentrated months it seems that half the British workforce needs to take time off, either to go on holiday or to provide childcare. It would help if schools were more flexible about family holidays. I do understand that 6 weeks is a great big holiday but it’s also the most expensive time to do it and it’s also the busiest time to do it and it puts the whole country under an enormous strain.
It’s a strange position to be in as a parent but I often think that parents are guilty of forgetting that our child free colleagues are also in it with us. When three people in the department all have to take their holiday in August then you can bet that the fourth person without children will come fourth in the list of priorities, and of course poor old number four will also have to work extra hard in August acting as lynch pin and co-ordinator whilst the rest of the team are having fun in far flung exotic locations. Of course they probably aren’t having fun, they are probably sun burnt and wondering how they are going to pay for the holiday that would have been £500 cheaper just 3 weeks later. Still if you’re stuck filing in St Austell with an increasing backlog then you won’t be seeing it from their point of view.
Some parents seem to feel that because they have children then their needs must be met first. I’ve had to stop myself laughing when I once heard a serious argument that society owed parents because parents were continuing the species. Now that’s probably the most self serving argument I have ever heard. I didn’t have children in order to honour my Darwinian debt and if I did, it was done subconsciously. I did it because I wanted children, so no one owes me anything. My children are my luxury and my gift, they are not my meal ticket or my excuse to push to the front of the queue. I am really grateful for everyone who helps me and acknowledges that having children is hard work and does things to make life easier for me but I don’t expect it. Human kindness usually ensures that those with children never have to work the Christmas Eve shift if it can be avoided but it’s not a given.
Unfortunately having children does mean that as parents we make them our first priority which is as it should be but it also puts a huge pressure on industry. In the past men worked and women stayed at home and ran things from there but we no longer live in that society, as mothers also work to make ends meet and childcare is increasingly spread over two parents. Gradually, what is actually happening is that childcare is spread out over everyone’s shoulders, whether they have children or not. If a parent has to drop out of work to nurse a sick child the rest of the workforce picks up the slack. It may not seem like Cameron’s Big Society but in a small way we’re already all pulling together everyday. We just need to acknowledge it and realise that no one has the soft option on the holiday rota.
|Not sure how he’s going to master the pen!|
Putting dogs on the curriculum caught my eye in the paper last week as a rather odd sort of feature. It turns out that a local charity would like greater awareness of dogs taught in classes. I don’t know how they plan on running it, maybe a short course like the cycling proficiency test, not sure if they even do that anymore. My children never did one. Anyway, I digress. I like the idea of dogs in schools. Without a dog at home children may lack the opportunity of knowing how to approach a dog – or not! It would also be a safe environment for a child where they may have picked up fears from a parent and can approach the dog without pressure from a parent. Too often I see families on walks where the parent grabs a child and pulls them towards them or hides the child behind their legs. I know Harry can be a muddy brute but that’s all he is. Those children are being taught that dogs are things to hide, or even worse, to run from.
Close up lessons with dogs could also remove some of the shine from dogs. Picking up dog poo will harden all but the most enthusiastic dog lover and may spare parents the inevitable pleas at Christmas. Lessons aimed at teenagers may help to show how expensive and time consuming a dog is and how quickly they lose their cute puppy appeal.
All in all I think it is a good idea but to be honest our curriculum is already so crowded with other things and constant tests that I don’t see where it will fit in. If I had my way with the curriculum I would bring back all sorts of things like cooking and sport. Not food technology and sport science but actually putting stuff in an oven and running down a field. I’d have more outward bound type lessons and more making and doing stuff sort of lessons. I’d also have lessons on how to understand a bank balance and how interest works on a credit card. Instead of being taught how to use powerpoint I’d want them taught how to write programmes. To be makers rather than consumers. Of course for the academics our curriculum is fine, not brilliant because we don’t push our smartest kids hard enough, but for our non academics it’s hopeless. Everyone is now expected to get a gazillion brilliant GCSEs and then race on to get even more wonderful A levels and then dash off to university and a whole pile of debt. But what about the brilliant kids who just can’t do exams, don’t like academia and just want to make and do. Where are our academies for inventors and engineers, our atheletes and explorers? Right now they are probably at home feeling useless because they didn’t get the GCSEs that society seems to keep saying is needed. Some of them will make it, those Richard Bransons out there will pick themselves up with no help from the current system and forge their own careers, but many will feel worthless, maybe dreaming of easy fame but looking around them and realising that they can’t do what society expects of them.
So yes, let’s have dogs in the classroom and with their wagging tails let’s have some more fun and lessons where different types of kids get to shine and wag their tails as well.
|Brad Pitt placing an order with Hurley Books|
Now some of you observant readers may, by now, have realised that we have a bookshop. In Mevagissey. Near the harbour. Hurley Books it’s called. This is not the time or the place to mention it. That would be unfair and an abuse of my position. But, I was thinking the other day that in 10 years of trading we haven’t had many celebs buying their tomes from us. The more I thought about it however, the more I realised that I was wrong. We’ve had our fair share. Probably the most well known was Griff Rhys Jones who called into our shop when we were in Charlestown to buy a local guide.
Steve once served the lady who co presents “How clean is your house” on TV. Aggie MacKenzie. He didn’t recognise her of course, probably because she is a middle aged woman who presents a cleaning programme and has no connection with football. After she had left and I told him who it was his only comment was “Oh, do you think we passed?” Probably not.
We’ve yet to get a film star in, although Johnny Depp was a distinct possibility when he was filming in Charlestown. As was Mel Gibson when he, allegedly, paid a visit to the area when directing “Apocalyto”. They both evaded our clutches, clearly not big readers.
There has been the odd brush with royalty. Edward’s wife was in Mevagissey recently and walked past our shop. She even looked in but, alas, did not cross the threshold. We did once send a book, ordered on the internet, to Buckingham Palace. It may have been ordered on behalf of the Queen so who knows we could be by Royal Appointment? We also send out to some pretty famous names via our online business. However, given that I am Liz Hurley a name doesn’t necessarily mean what it might suggest.
And let’s not forget the infamous. Several times have we sent books to prisons. I have no idea what the purchasers had done to land themselves in jail but what better way to pass the time than with a good book. Perhaps the thickness of the book is an indication of the crime. “War and Peace”, must be in for murder, “Animal Farm” must be a looter. We’ve also sent a few to the Houses of Parliament but I wasn’t sure whether this group belonged to the former or the latter category!
The crème de la crème, though, are the literary celebs. They may not be as well known but we, in the book trade, tend to get dewy eyed when authors come a callin’. Colin Wilson, E V Thompson and Tessa Hainsworth are three of our regulars. Colin lives locally and is a prolific author covering a wide range of subjects. He shot to fame in the 60’s with his controversial book, “The Outsider”. E V Thompson is one of Cornwall’s best known authors with a huge following and Tessa, who gave up a high flying job in London, relocated to Cornwall to become a post woman. She has written 2 very popular books recounting her experiences. The real joy of authors though is that by and large we don’t know what they look like and that’s the sort of fame I like, respected for what you’ve written not what you look like.
That said it’s rumoured that Brad Pitt is in Cornwall and desperate for something good to read, so why not come down to our shop. You may catch a glimpse of him. We’re in Mevagissey. Right by the harbour. Hurley Books.
A parcel delivered by Citylink couldn’t be delivered through my letterbox so I was left a handy ransom note instead. There was a telephone number to dial that would rarely be answered and, when it was, I had the option to decipher the unique number scrawled across the card in order to re-book a delivery. It would generally take a few attempts, “I don’t know, try S, No? Try 5 then” and so on until my parcel details would pop up. I really don’t know why my house number and postcode isn’t enough. With DHL they use barcodes which I thought were easy to read until someone in the Truro depot told me that when they get into the depot they are reassigned new barcodes and sometimes the two barcodes don’t get paired together properly. Anyway, an agreed date to re-deliver would be then duly ignored and another “failed to deliver” would drop through the letterbox with the message that the parcel had been returned to sender and to please contact sender. Details about who the sender may have been remain unknown. A slightly metaphysical quandary.
Lost parcels are as much fun, the depot can’t locate the parcel so do you want to make a claim? Please specify what you have lost. Tricky as you don’t know what it is, conveniently you can’t make a claim. I was once asked if I knew what it was. It was Christmas, was I expected to phone up everyone I knew and ask if they had sent a present to my son? Can you imagine how awkward that conversation would be? “Hi, did you send us a present?” “No.” “OK”…”Should I have sent you a present?” yuk.
But I have the solution. If a parcel company is having a logistics issue they should ask a mum to come in and sort it out.
Last week after a rugby skills session in Truro I collected my eldest and his mate, and headed to Lanivet roundabout to rendezvous with his mate’s mother whereby she handed over my second son who had been staying with friends near her, as well as eldest son’s bags left behind from a sleepover and I handed over her son. At these moments we tend to grin at each other, just check that we have the right amount of bags and the correct children in the car and drive off. No journey is wasted as we pick up from others and drop off along the way. This swapping of children also means that parents can go to work whilst other parents look after a whole brood. Being self employed may mean that you work very odd hours but it also means you can be pretty flexible.
So far none of us have been forced to phone up a faceless depot and try to describe what our son looks like and could they please try to redeliver him, along with his bags and before 10.00 so that we can go to the beach.
Towards the end of summer there is the general “Who’s shoes are these?” and the round of e-mails asking if anyone has seen a raincoat and gradually, by the first week of September, all is back in place and we can all collapse. So DHL next time you can’t find my parcel give your Mum a call and ask her if she knows where it is!
There’s a road I use nearly every day and it generally seems that the rest of St Austell also uses it. It’s Tregonissey Road and as it serves as one of the main roads into St Austell from the north, the College, Poltair School and Carclaze School it can be pretty gridlocked around 8.30 and 3.30. So I was a bit disheartened a few months ago to see the surface covered in white and yellow road markings, indicators of imminent roadworks. Still the summer holidays were approaching, of course, the obvious time to do the work. Now we’re into the first week of August and nothing has happened yet, I hope by the time you read this the works are underway because it isn’t a well used tourist route so it won’t cause undue traffic chaos but if they wait until September then what a mess that will be.
Of course it has always been a long standing complaint that highways and the utility companies seem incapable of sensible timing when it comes to digging up roads so I wouldn’t be surprised if they do wait until September to start digging up the town’s busiest school road just as the new school term starts. It was clearly some sort of bonkers logic that decided that the best time to once again massacre St Austell high street was the summer holidays.
I couldn’t believe it when I walked in the other day. Just how many times has the high street been dug up in the last ten years? It’s truly ridiculous. Now it’s been patched up with great big splotches of tarmac between the herringbone pavings. Presumably this means that at some point it is going to be dug up again or the whole road is once again going to be re-laid. Or maybe the council will run out of money and we’ll be left with a patched up eyesore for another few years. It makes me really cross that no one seems to consider the impression that this gives to people visiting St Austell. Yes we have a nice new shopping area but there are no independents in there. The independents are what give a town its character. Holiday makers visiting Mevagissey are always commenting on how nice the local villages are but what a shame about St Austell. They all go to Truro instead. All those people visiting Eden and Heligan and yet year after year they pop into the shop and say I see St. Austell is still a mess. I am beginning to hear compliments for the new development and that is encouraging but I care more about the independents and keeping profits local.
And of course it would be great for us locals to have a lovely, vibrant town centre but we can’t ignore just how much money comes into the county during summer and how much St Austell misses out on.
Hey ho. I’m sure digging up the high street in the summer holidays makes sense to someone. Maybe some little A4 posters explaining the mess and outlining the benefits? Something in the newspapers? An explanation, an apology? A decent high street? Dream on kiddo and watch out for roadworks in September.
Last weekend we went up to Dorset for a family wedding, Steve’s cousin was getting hitched and we were all invited. As the invitation was being arranged between two male cousins I didn’t have a clue as to details. What kind of a wedding was it, church, civil? Should I wear a hat? Are you sure the children are invited? Are we going to the wedding, the reception or the whole shebang? Is there a whole shebang? Steve looked at me as we drove up the A30 and thought I was as nuts as all the poor holiday makers that decided to try to enter Cornwall on a Saturday at 10am. It was a wedding! Just turn up and go with the flow. Fair enough but there are few weddings that I have attended where “going with the flow” was the order of the day.
So we arrived at his mother’s at almost the same time as his sister coming over from Essex and already there was a great sense of occasion. The cousins all fell on each other, whilst we all fought over the iron that quite frankly deserves pride of place in a museum. Suited and booted we convoyed off to the village, speculating on the bride; farmer’s daughter apparently but beyond that no one had actually met her. However, she was marrying Shaun so she clearly had a good sense of humour.
Arriving in the small Dorset village we discovered the most wondrous site, on a field in the middle of the prettiest little houses was a great marquee, all the villagers were milling about in the lanes and little signs pointed to the church. It seemed that half the village were attending and as the Vicar stood up to welcome us we understood the reception. Claire was the daughter of a local farmer who had farmed in the village since forever; the vicar lived next door to the family and had known them all since year dot.
It was a wonderful do and I kept feeling like I was stuck in the Archers, everyone was in their best bib and tucker and Steve’s uncle looked remarkably good if somewhat uncomfortable in full morning attire. We’d been laying bets as to whether he would even be wearing a tie! Because it was such a community wedding there were loads of children and the church was noisy with chattering children and neighbours catching up. The songs were sang with lust rather than accuracy and one child that had been bribed with sweets to keep quiet managed to time her sugar rush to the moment when poor Claire tried to say her vows. When the vicar asked the congregation to support Shaun and Claire through their married life, the three of them had a quiet chat and agreed that our “We do” had been a bit quiet, so, once more with feeling please. We nearly took the roof off.
The reception in the marquee was generous, informal and tasty. Shaun and Claire arrived on a sofa, on a trailer on the back of a tractor and everyone cheered them in. The children had become a single pack and had taken to running in the dry river bed, feeding the sheep in the next field and climbing over the tractor, cravats were removed, belts loosened, high heels swapped for flip flops and everyone laughed their way towards the evening disco to which the entire village had been invited.
I think Shaun and Claire are going to have a wonderful married life if their “go with the flow” wonderful wedding is any sort of yardstick!
On another occasion I had stopped outside of the Grampound Smokehouse for some gorgeous prawn sarnies. I got back in my car reversed a bit to get a better angle out onto the road because it can be really tricky there sometimes to rejoin the traffic and then waited. Only a few moments had passed when someone flashed their lights at me. Immediately I accelerated and only the briefest of heartbeats later I selected the correct gear and this time accelerated forwards and on my way blushing wildly.