Thursday, 26 April 2018

Hotch Potch

Hello there!

Firstly thank you so much for your messages of comfort and support - both public and private - following my last post. What can I say? You are all so very lovely. And as promised, I am steering clear of the maudlin, and opting only for the positive For this post at least. I can't promise that a touch of maudlin may creep back at some stage.

My computer smells of gin and rose tonic. I knocked a glass of it all over it last week, and up until now the keys have been sticking horribly. Thankfully, it seems to have sorted itself out. It's just as well because while eating tea, Alf informed me that he needed to borrow it to complete the Drama coursework that's due in tomorrow. "How much do you have left to do?" I asked. "Oh not much." he replied. "I'll probably pull an all-nighter." He won't be, but frankly I didn't have the strength to argue the toss with him straightaway. Instead I went to the Co-Op and bought a four pack of Crunchies, and a big bag of crisps. I may be feeling better, but my eating habits are still very much at rock bottom. Plus I reckon I'll use the calories up in the stressful stand off that we'll be having at some point this evening.

The top picture of my usual random collage, is part of the outfit that I wore to a recent job interview at my local Seasalt branch last week. They were advertising for a part time sales assistant, and although I may not be working at the moment, the loss of a monthly wage has made itself felt. When Marc read my personal statement, he thought I was too flippant. I panicked because I'd already handed it in. Anyway they obviously thought that my boast about excellent tea making abilities was enough to secure an interview. And the job! I'm so pleased. A permanent part time job in St Ives is pretty hard to come by. It's mostly seasonal work here, as you can imagine. And I've kind of been put off the whole cleaning for a living thing. I start next week. I will be clothed by them. I need to learn how to apply make up.

I have also had a site meeting with the planning officer at The Wink this week, and am delighted to say that it is now all systems go. We have had to tweak and make a few changes, but in hindsight they may be for the best. I am now researching shepherds huts in earnest. I've an image of a yellow one - who I shall call Doris - situated in her own private garden, along with an outside eating area and views to die for. I'm also thinking of painting the front door of The Wink pink, but haven't plucked up the courage to inform Marc.

My Dad has been in hospital with pneumonia and sepsis, but I was able to speak to him today, and if all goes well he should be discharged from hospital tomorrow. His white blood cell count was low, and as he has had cancer they were doing other tests just in case. I am very relieved and hope to get up to Bristol soon to visit him. My sister tells me that he was moaning about all and sundry, so I'm taking that to mean that he's well on the way to recovery. He will still have to rest and take it very easy, which won't come easy to him. But my sister and brother will be there to put him straight. As my brother said "He can sod off if he thinks he's going dancing and the supermarket. I'm hiding his car keys!"

Alf asked my advice on the best way to ask out a girl. I was rather put on the back foot. I think I was only ever asked out three times in my life. I wasn't the asking out kind apparently. I suggested that he ask her if she'd like to go to the cinema, and then go to the arcade on the harbour, a crepe from Pels and a wander around the Island. I told him that it was better to have a bit of a date plan to offset the nerves. I hope that she says yes. He's dead handsome, and I think he'd treat any girl he took a fancy to like a Queen. I think a girlfriend would really sort Alf out to be honest, in ways that I'm not at all ready to acknowledge anywhere but here.

I have sparrows, blackbirds and a wren nesting in the garden this year. It's all very busy. I've also put up more bird feeders, and there is lots of activity throughout the day. It's a lovely way in which to waste a little time. The goldfinches in particular delight me. They squabble amongst themselves so. We have been visited by holly blues, orange tips and a couple of white butterflies too. No photos; my eyesight has really deteriorated over the past year, and it takes me longer to spot them and point and press the camera. I have to settle for just enjoying them instead. Hopefully I worry about my eyes. They are very poor quality, and I wonder how bad they need to get before one is classed as legally blind.

Sam asked me whether we had at Swiss ancestry the other day. Apparently they give you citizenship if you do. Is this true? I told him we were pure mudblood. He seemed disappointed. There's a smidgen of Welsh on my Dad's side, and a little West Country on my Mum's. Marc's family all hail from here. I was going to lie and tell him that we came from somewhere really exotic. But in the end I settled for the truth. He needs to know his place in the world. Do any of you have exotic ancestry?

Leanne xx

Monday, 16 April 2018

Touching A Nerve

Hello there.

I hope that this finds you all well and groovy?

It's the last day of the Easter holidays here, and I'm having a third cup of tea, before I head off out for another day of doing and stuff. It's been busy and lovely and hard and difficult and all sorts in-between. Has been for a while actually. In truth, life has taken rather a battering of late. Perhaps that's why I'm hanging on to The Wink so much. We've had the results of the mundic tests, which was that there was none (phew). I have a site meeting with the planning officer next Monday, to discuss our outline application. Talking to her on the phone today, has given me hope that we should get a favourable response.

So, back to the battered.

I've always tried to be as transparent as possible here. That's partly because I feel that I can, and partly because this space is a record of my life as it trots along. And whether it be good, bad or indifferent I tend to write it down. Of course not everything gets included, but I think I pretty much have very little filter here. And that suits me. I hope that I have never been indiscreet, especially when it comes to writing about other people for instance.

That's a bit of a minefield isn't it? Some of you choose to not make the names of your children public, for example. And I can absolutely see the reason for that. Some of you filter what you record. Again, entirely appropriate. Some of you like to record very specific things; crafts, gardens, interiors and the like. And that's cool. I guess I think of this place as an almost secret diary. I share my stuff, in the knowledge that my secrets are safe with all of you. And not just the secrets, but the everyday adventures too. I've written about the challenges that I face from time to time, my mental health and its' ups and downs, the highs and the lows of family life. I have named and talked about my children, because they are the biggest part of who I am.

And I am comfortable and secure here. Which is a bit weird when it's a public forum that anybody could read. I'm actually a very private person in the real world, and share very little. I'm quite reserved, and not at all big and booming. I don't have that moth to a flame character that some have. In fact I'm entirely average and hum drum, which is just fine with me. I don't think I have a persona when I write. But maybe I do. It's certainly not deliberate if there is one. Sam once said after he'd read one of my posts, that I came across bigger on here than in real life, which says it all really.

It's also a space into which my family rarely venture. They know I write a blog, but aren't at all interested in reading it. I guess it's not their sort of thing. Marc may read it from time to time, and Sam has had a nose. I think that some of my friends may read it occasionally, but again, I'm not sure that they're really that arsed about it. And I actually like that they don't. I don't want them too. It's my thing. It's where I come to read all about you, and write all about me. I've made new friends here. Not conventional friendships, to be sure. But real as any other I've made, and as dear to me too.

And that's why I was so excited to share Ship Shape with you. It was this fabulous and scary departure for me, and I was really proud that I had done it. I was chuffed that I had stepped outside of my small little life, and committed to setting up a business with a trusted family member and friend. And it was going really well. Until the end of February, when it didn't. So I made the difficult decision to part ways with Ship Shape and walk away from not just it, but everything involved in it too. And that's the battered bit, because I feel heartbroken.

My metal health has taken a pasting. I stopped running. I started to comfort eat. I couldn't sleep. I fretted constantly. I started avoiding places. My thoughts became clouded and my judgement poor. I took it out on the boys. I felt anxious all the time. I wanted to talk about it, but I couldn't. I was afraid of what might come out of my mouth. Or onto the page. So all my processing was internal, and that was probably not a good thing.

Thank goodness for my Mum (she with the Charles and Di mug above), who listened to me ramble on and on. Who let me go over the same minute point time and again. Who sat beside me while I got upset. Who gave me quiet counsel and unconditional support that I had done the right thing. Who nudged me to start looking forward and not back. Who reminded me that there was such a lot of good stuff going on in my life, and that I needn't dwell on the bad. I'm telling you, I aspire to be that wise and kind. I'm going to have it printed on a t shirt.

So onwards and upwards, friends. Looking forward to better days. I'm using this space as a bridge between what has been and what is to come. And I thank you for taking the time to let me put it out there. I promise that anything that follows this will be dripping with sarcasm, knob gags and a much lighter attitude to life!

Love to you all,

Leanne xx

Friday, 6 April 2018

Easter Happenings

Well hello there.

It's currently raining (again). We've been lured into the promise of fresh Spring days, only to be taken for fools. The garden is full of Spring. The tulips, muscari, anenomes, aliums and geraniums are in bud and blooming. The frog spawn has already been gobbled up by the newts. My blackbird pair are in and out of the garden, pulling up worms and grubbing about. We have been visited by blue and great tits, black caps, chaffinches, goldfinches and a very shy mistle thrush too. The sparrows are squabbling in the privet, and the collard dove pair are smooching in the tree.

Thank you all for your kind words regarding our move to The Wink. Progress is being made, but our fate lies in the hands of the planning officer. We have submitted an outline planning application to them, and are waiting for a site meeting, to go over our proposal. They have been spectacularly unhelpful, and so we have had no choice but to hand over lots of money to secure this meet and greet, in order to obtain a modicum of clarification that our application would be met favourably.

All this sticks in my clack, when you see the dreadful buildings that have sprung up in and around St Ives in the past few years. You may remember me writing about a proposal to cut down a number of mature trees that are part of the wooded corridor that lines the coast path between St Ives and Carbis Bay. Olly and I waved our placards and were a very small part of a well organised protest against the developers desire to build property specifically designed with the second home/holiday let market in mind.

Anyway, the trees have been felled and the contractors have started. They have spent the past month or so creating an entrance way leading from the main road onto the site. I kind of feel sorry for the men working there actually. They have had to put up laminated signs with the words 'Mind Your Language' in bold font. Apparently they've been verbally abused by locals unhappy with the Council and their decision to uproot a whole section of this beautiful wild corridor. You have to wonder how these plans get passed, and I'm convinced there is some sort of backroom deal being made somewhere along the line. Thankfully the town voted in favour of the Neighbourhood Plan a couple of years ago, although this particular development fell through the cracks as it was proposed before the plan was ratified.

So I'm hopeful that our very modest plans for The Wink will be approved. As it sits in an area of outstanding natural beauty, there are more stringent rules and regulations that apply. And quite right too. But when you know that what you are proposing to do will enhance and not harm, it can be frustrating. We are also awaiting the results of a mundic block test on the property. Mundic is a Cornish term for mine waste, and prior to 1952 concrete was often mixed with this and used in buildings. The chemicals contained in it can lead to deterioration in the composition, and can result in a mortgage application being refused.

The Wink was built sometime around 1820 (possibly earlier) and is made of granite, so we know that it will be free from mundic. However there is an extention to the rear and a sun room to the side of the property, that may be a problem. I'm quietly confident that they were built after 1952, and in any case part of our proposed plan is to knock the extention down and rebuild it. The sun room will also be replaced at some point in the future; I have very grand plans for an orangery where I shall grow all kinds of exotic plants. So movement on The Wink at this point seems painfully slow, and we feel in a kind of limbo.

The survey is being carried out next week (the survey has already been carried out on our house), and our solicitor has begun the obligatory searches, which down here include mining surveys. Cornwall is riddled with abandoned tin mines, and shafts do open up from time to time. Since I've been living here, a shaft opened up in Tesco's car park and had to be capped. And a whole row of house had to be adandoned and demolished when a huge shaft opened up beneath them. It took a couple of years to cap it off, and rebuild them. The Wink has seen it all I imagine. It has probably served those miners that went down into the mines to hew the raw material from the bedrock. Terribly dangerous work it was, and thirsty too, judging from the amount of pubs that were listed in the Towednack Parish archives, around the time that The Wink was serving beer.

It's been fascinating to research a little of the history of the area we will hopefully be moving too. It's only two and a half miles outside of St Ives, but it's identity and history is of the land rather than the sea. Mining and farming were the main employers here, and even though you can see both sides of the peninsula - indeed at the top of Trencrom Hill you can see the bay of St Ives and the bay of Penzance - it does feel isolated and remote. The Wink closed as a pub in 1840. About one hundred yards from it is The Engine Inn, which is still being run as a pub and guest house. It can date parts of its' building to the seventeen hundreds, and I can imagine The Wink would look quite similar without its' rendered fa├žade.

As you may have gathered, we have been swept off our feet by The Wink, and it has been occupying most of our thoughts. Marc has been ever practical; contacting builders, investigating ground works contractors, drawing up plans and the like. I have been less helpful. I am point of contact for solicitor and estate agent, and am paper shuffler and dreamer. I have been up to the house several times (the current owner has kindly allowed us to poke about the outside when we like), and there is something new to see every time. I've discovered a badger set, with fresh tracks leading from it up into the adjacent field. There are bluebells pushing up everywhere, and flag iris in the pond. I discovered a little piece of statuary hidden away under a huge camellia that's the very best shade of deep pink.

What can I say? If those pesky planners usurp our plans, and therefore the move, I will be GUTTED.

In other news, we are enjoying a relaxing Easter holiday. Marc has had a week off work, which has been great. Granted he has come down with a virus and spent every morning lying in, but it's been lovely having him about the place. We've started the mammoth task of clearing the loft, as it's the only productive thing we can do in preparation for our potential move. I have to say that we were disgusted at the amount of stuff up there. Mostly toys that had been outgrown and discarded by the boys. Some that had been barely played with. A few pristine and still in their boxes. Such excess above our heads. It made me feel quite ashamed.

Olly happened upon some forgotten Lego however. He was thrilled and has played with it on and off ever since. I took a car load to my favourite local charity shop, where it was received with great excitement. And my friend Sophie took pre school puzzles, books and games to the nursery where she works. It assuaged my guilt somewhat. I'm not sure why I put all that stuff up into the loft in the first place. I'm not a hoarder by any means. Maybe it was a case of out of sight out of mind. It really pulled me up short, and I am determined to be more mindful of the things that I buy in future. That goes for every purchase I make.

Of course when the Boden catalogue plopped through my letter box, I could have wept with the amount of pretty things I would have liked. Thank God for an empty wallet. If I end up at The Wink, my life will be a series of overalls and wellingtons. I suspect that there will be no gauzy frocks in my future. Or strappy heels. Much the same as now to be honest. In my mind's eye, this time next year I shall be wafting through a pasture full of cow parsley wearing dungarees and swinging a basket of blooms. The reality will probably be Marc's old overalls, a beanie hat and a wheelbarrow full of muck.

We have kept a few things for any future Paxtons. All of the trains and their tracks have been packed away. I couldn't bear to part with them. I also have a box for each of the boys containing their first shoes, first lock of hair and first drawing that looked like a face. You know the kind of things I'm sure. Treasure I could never part with. I can't believe that they were all once so small. Sam and Alf both tower above me. They are long legged and slim of hip. They eat me out of house and home. They drive me to distraction with the mess that they make, and the laundry they create. I feel as if I'm cooking for the five thousand every meal time. The pasta they consume must keep the Italian economy going. They are noisy underfoot and my sofas protest every time they flop into them.

Sam has been home for Easter, because as he informed me 'I have 38 pence to my name, haven't eaten meat for about a month and can't afford to wash my clothes.' He's been finishing off his dissertation, sleeping, making us watch the news on the hour every hour and helping to make an utterly forgettable birthday memorable as we giggled around Waterstones and Wilkos. He is applying to do his PGCE in September, and will hopefully be studying at Bristol. I think he will make a good teacher. He has a way of explaining things clearly and concisely. His passion for history is clear, as is his knowledge.

Alfie is revising for his GCSE examinations. I am spoon feeding him the whole way. He has hated secondary school, and is desperate to be free of it. If it was up to him, he wouldn't study at all, and I just can't sit back and let that happen. He is a really clever boy, who lacks focus, direction and confidence. I feel totally responsible for that. I feel as if I've let him down. We have fought and rubbed each other up the wrong way for so long. Every time I've tried to discipline or reason or sanction or use tough love, it has back fired. I don't know whether any of you reading this can relate, but I just feel as if I've made a colossal fuck up of being his Mum, especially these past few years. So far he has stuck to the timetable, with lots of encouragement and ego massaging from me. The school have been great, and he will have a final half term of revision and interventions before the exams start. I just hope that college will suit him better. Alfie is an amazing chap, and I love him more than my luggage. I suspect that we'll both be digging deep for a while.

As for Olly, he's just gambolling through life like the proverbial Spring lamb. He's loving all of us being at home together. He's been spoilt by his brothers with time and packets of Haribo. He has discovered Dr Who, and we've enjoyed revisiting it as a family. He has walked beaches, gone to the cinema, the trampoline park and had friends over to play. I suspect that if he were asked he would include his Easter eggs, his cousin Billy coming to stay and getting up into the loft as holiday highlights. He has cut a chunk of his hair out and reminds me of Dave Hill from the iconic British glam rock band Slade. Needless to say we are off to the barber's this afternoon.

I hope that you have all had a relaxing Easter break. We have another week off here, and plans include visiting some National Trust properties and I am out with my friend Sophie for our belated birthday booze up.

Leanne xx

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The Wink

It is absolutely hammering down outside, and I've no milk in the fridge. I've also got my pyjamas on, so a double dilemma while I bash away at the computer. I cannot countenance a morning without that first cup of tea. But I also cannot be bothered to change out of my nightwear in order to go to the shop and buy two litres of skimmed. I'm figuring that wellies, a long waterproof and a devil may care attitude in the Co-op will stand me in good stead. Plus there's always gin.

I have some news. You may have noticed amongst the random hotch-potch of snaps above - entirely uncurated and lifted from my phone - a rather weather beaten house with a 'Sale Agreed' sign plonked out the front. The house is called 'The Wink' and is situated on the back road between St Ives and Penzance. A lovely winding route that takes in all manner of rural and coastal scenes. I drive along it several times a month. It used to serve cream teas when I first moved here, and was a bed and breakfast for many years.

Turn the clocks back a hundred years or more, and it was a staging house for travellers wishing to park their horse and bed down for the night. An early Travelodge if you will. It wasn't licenced, but a wink at the kettle and you'd get a drop of the good stuff. Or so the story goes. To step inside is to travel back in time to the late sixties/early seventies. All swirly patterned carpets and a very basic kitchen. There is no central heating, the wiring and plumbing is ancient. There is a huge fireplace and lots of natural light. It sits in just over an acre of land, that is part garden, part derelict, part wonderfully magical copse. And with any luck, we'll have moved in at the end of June.

It's four years ago since we last put our house up for sale. At that time we were hoping to buy somewhere that could give us an extra income, but it was not to be. The timing wasn't right. The house just wasn't right. So we were content to remain put. And then about six weeks ago, I was flicking through our local paper's property section. I always do. I love looking at what's up for sale. And there it was. A house that I've often looked at while driving past. I've seen it there, looking proud yet rather forlorn and unloved. But keeping it's head held high all the same. A bit scruffy and in need of attention. I've always felt an affinity with it I suppose. Can you say that about a building?

On a whim, I phoned the estate agent and arranged a viewing. I took my Mum with me for moral support. And to bring a semblance of sense to the whole adventure. The weather was atrocious, and was raining as heavily as it is this evening. The low light made everything look grey and dank. But out of the gloom were hundreds of primroses dotted about the unkempt driveway, and a huge camellia with magnificent white blooms caught my eye. 

The estate agent (a child of twelve), let us inside. It was so cold that my breath came out in a cloud. The house was empty. The old lady that had lived here had passed away last year. She was in her late eighties and had run the bed and breakfast and tea room with her husband. They had raised their family here, and I could imagine the children racing up and down the stairs, being scolded for disturbing the guests. Upstairs the bedrooms still had their numbers on the doors. Room five was a fetching shade of pink. Room four, National Health green. Downstairs the kitchen led into a pantry and then on into the dining room. There was a dolly swinging mournfully from above the range, that I guess would have once been  full of laundry drying in the heat of the kitchen. 

The sun room reminded me of Barbara Hepworth's and I could picture succulents and tall potted plants gracing it once more. South facing onto the garden, I spied rhododenrons and a huge Cedar of Lebanon. I itched to go outside and explore. I walked back through the house once more, thinking that it had a nice feel to it. Yes it was dated. Yes it freezing. But it felt as if happiness had resided here. I could imagine the fire crackling in the grate and the interior re-imagined. In short, I could see us living here.

We wandered outside, and explored. There was so much to see. A hidden, sunken treasure of a copse with stunted, gnarled lichen covered trees. There was a large pond at the centre, and I could see the stumps of gunnera. There were more primroses dotted about. And snowdrops too. And there were the unmistakable leaves of foxgloves. There might be bluebells here soon, I thought. There was a bank of ferns and the earth smelt rich and woody. I could have cried. I felt an immediate connection to this secluded secret spot. A place to nurture and love. A place to protect and watch over. I looked over at Mum, and she just smiled. I think she could see her middle aged daughter transported.

Reluctantly I returned to the car and drove home. When I asked Mum what she thought, there was a pause and then she said "It's got a lot of potential." And it did. So much. But it would take the rolling up of sleeves, a year and a day of stress, hard work and a bit of courage. And courage is something that I've lacked for much of my life. I've chosen the path well trod. But honestly, this place. It had me hooked. I couldn't wait to show Marc.......

It's early days of course. An offer accepted does not mean that it's ours. There's the survey, the mining search, the mundic block test, the outline planning approval, the money. But I'm channelling every positive vibe going. For us and our move to The Wink. But also for the couple that are hoping to buy our house. They have recently moved to St Ives, and are hoping to start a family. And without banging my own drum, but this is the perfect house in which to do it. It works hard, our house. It's had to with three marauding boys. It would make me very happy to know that another family could maraud here too.

Can you spot some of The Wink's magic in the above snaps? 

How goes it with all of you?

Leanne xx

Friday, 16 February 2018

Nurdles, Newts and Not enough time

I am sitting here, a vision in my fleecy dressing gown. Olly is watching something appalling on TV, Alfie is gaming upstairs with his friend and Marc has just returned home for the weekend. It is all entirely normal and humdrum, which is exactly the way that it should be.

I've had real trouble with my blog. It has been playing silly buggers for the past couple of weeks, and I almost gave up on it completely last Tuesday, and toyed with trying to set up a new blog on another format. But here I am again, banging away at the computer, and writing about nothing in particular.

I've also been busy. Flying around with my scrub bag, pricing up work and sending out quotations for new jobs. We have been unexpectedly busy this half term week. The good weather forecast has meant last minute bookings, which in turn has seen Karen and I frantically getting properties that had been closed for the winter ship shape and shiny. I think I've got repetitive strain injury in my wrist from the amount of glass and tiled surfaces I've polished.

We've also attended some very murky scrubs too. I'll spare you the details, but I'm thinking of buying a sharps bucket for future end of tenancy cleans. The cost of that particular job will definitely reflect the possible hazard to health. We've become much better when it comes to pricing. And standing your ground when those around you think you're the lowest rung on the ladder (apart from the tenants. I think they're seen as the actual lowest low). 

Anyway half term has been a bit of a damp squid. I had to cancel all the plans that I had for Olly and I, which was hugely guilt inducing. He did get a play date with his chum, and I was able to take him out this afternoon to The Bluff. He ran up and down the dunes, thrashed about in the pools left by the retreating tide, and helped me to beach clean. Nanny was with us too. She has become something of an eco warrior since moving to St Ives, and can often be seen with her bag collecting plastic debris from the beach. 

There were thousands of nurdles in amongst the sand. Nurdles is the name given to those small plastic pellets that form the raw material of the plastics industry. I'm buggered if I know how they actually end up in our oceans, but I suspect it's all part of the huge amounts of industrial waste that is dumped every year. You just cant collect any real quantity of it, as you pick your way across the beach. You'd need to sift through every bit of sand. Olly and I were trying to think of machines that we could invent to solve the problem. He came up with some very creative ideas, and it gave me hope that our youngsters will be the ones that deal with this problem that has been inadvertently caused by those that have come before.

It can be very depressing once you start the process of cleaning your favourite stretch of beach. In fact as we were leaving, I could see a carrier bag dancing along the sand. It was too far away, and I felt terribly ashamed that I had left it to wend its' way along the beach. There are also times when I simply can't lift or drag the huge swathes of fishing nets, plastic barrels and the rest that has been lost (or tossed) from fishing vessels. Our beaches aren't patrolled by any agency or council department. There isn't any official whose job it is to clear them of such waste. So it just gets washed back out to sea with the returning high tides. But as my mother so sagely points out, what we collect and take away means that there is a little less every time. And Olly seems very pleased with himself too. 

In other news, the blackbird and his lady friend are frequenting the garden more and more. He sits on the fence, while she hops about on the grass. The garden is starting to wake up, and begin it's annual cycle once again. The alium bulbs that I planted last year have all started to come up, as have the tulips. There are foxgloves galore, and all my pelargonium cuttings are thriving. I'm acutely aware that my time in the garden will be quite limited this year, so I have been mulching and tidying in earnest. I've cleared the pond of palm leaves. The frogs are back, although the frogspawn will no doubt be eaten by the newts once again. Nature in tooth and claw right there. I'm hopeful that the garden will still thrive despite my neglect this year. Just another thing to feel guilty about.

Alfie has an interview for sixth form college at the end of the month. He is hoping to do an advanced diploma in game and web design. He doesn't want to do A Levels, and is unsure whether he wants to go to University. I think he'd like to earn money sooner rather than later, and is unwilling to consider leaving Cornwall just yet. All this may change of course, but it has been an important step for Alfie to consider any future at all. His teachers have all been fantastic in their belief in his abilities. He is such a bright spark, but lacks all confidence. He is also starting to mature emotionally, which has been a huge relief. His outbursts and bad language are now very rare, which makes for a more harmonious home I can tell you. We seem to be making friends again, and share a laugh together. Our relationship has been fraught for several years, so I can't begin to tell you how happy this makes me.

Running has taken a three week back seat. The lurgy, work and a general feeling of fatigue have contributed. I'm hoping to get a couple of runs in next week, and then build back up to four a week once more. Karen and I have signed up for the Plymouth half in April, so I need to be match fit by then. We are up to a comfortable ten miles (we were), but I need to be running fifteen. I'm not bothered by times. I'm a steady runner with a good sprint finish. I shan't be racing anyone. I'll be competing with myself, which is always the way with me.

One more thing before I go and top up my glass; can I recommend the novel 'Eleanor Oliphant Is Extremely Fine.' A beautiful book about loneliness and friendship. It moved me to tears - "You've made me all shiny, Laura" - and I haven't read anything this good in a long time. 

Have a wonderful weekend, friends. I shall be scrubbing; at home and abroad, having friends for supper (not literally you understand. I'm making lasagne), and maybe baking a cake.

With love,

Leanne xx