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

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Dear Rose

Dear Rose,

I arrived home from work yesterday to find a parcel from you. It's so unusual to receive either parcels (unless they are from Amazon), or indeed a letter - with a hand written address - that I got most excited. Nowadays it seems that Christmas is the only time that a real honest to goodness handwritten envelope drops through the letter box. I used to write letters all the time. To pen pals, friends and family. Fan letters to favourite bands or film stars. Letters to newspapers for writing and poetry competitions. I never did win any of them, by the way. Emails, texts and pure laziness have put a stop to it all. Perhaps I should take up the tradition once more?

Of course I recognised your handwriting; so elegant and loopy. Written in ink, which makes me yearn for my old Parker ink pen that my Dad bought for me at age 11. It was silver, and I used to use blue/black Quink ink. I remember the pleasure to be had from squeezing the ink from the bottle into the cartridge. The pen was a gift, and we went together to the stationers in East Street to buy it. I thought that it was very fancy indeed.

There don't seem to be these kinds of shops around now. Is that the same where you live. We have a national chain that supplies fountain pens, stationary, paper and the like, and I can remember as a teenager wandering around its' aisles looking at erasers, memo pads and pencil cases. I don't think that I can remember the last time I actually entered a shop that smelt of paper. A warm, dusty kind of smell, that had aisles full of the most appealing stuff to touch. A bit like the smell I imagine 84 Charing Cross Road to have.

I watched the film staring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins over the Christmas period. I had never seen it before, and was absolutely charmed by it. I have to tell you that I devoured the book in one sitting. I went to bed early last night, and couldn't stop turning the pages. I would have loved to have met Helene. It's a rather romantic notion of mine, the idea of writing for a living surrounded by books and paper and gin and cigarettes. I'm so pleased that she found great success with her book; she struggled and suffered for her art. And her love of books is something that resonates with me. Although I wonder what she would feel about books available on a Kindle. She'd loathe it I'm sure.

Her passion for non fiction, and her desire for obscure titles reminds me of scouring the charity shops looking for just the right book. I have found many 'forgotten' favourites that way. Last year I picked up an Adrian Mole book that had gone missing from my book shelves. It was as well thumbed as the one I had lost, and I was so pleased about that. I imagined the previous owner enjoying and chuckling at  the same bits of the book as myself. Just last week I bought a collection of Philip Larkin poetry from our doctor's surgery charitable stand. I have wanted to red more of his verse for the longest time, and there it was waiting for me.

I still cherish the very first letter that I received from you. It was such a surprise! That someone would take the time to write after having read this blog. And the fact that it arrived with a partial address, and a description of the boys and Honey to guide the postman to the right door! It was so generous of you to feed my ego that way. Honestly I bounced about the house for the rest of the weekend. You have thought of Olly too, with your postcards and letters to him. We have written to each other about our families and the day to day business of our lives.

Which leads me on to that very topic........

Yesterday morning there were Black Caps in the garden. A new visitor, they were feeding on the fat balls that my Mum diligently looks after. She is also taking care of all the laundry and ironing while she's staying. She doesn't need too, but she wants too. She likes to be busy, and I guess it makes her feel as if she contributing while she stays. It shouldn't be for much longer. Her new apartment is having the shower room revamped, and once that's done she's off. I know that she's really looking forward to having her own front door. I know that Olly will be sad to see her go. If he had his way, she'd stay forever

I forgot how easy going my Mum is. She's a trifle deaf in one ear, which the boys delight in. She is always producing treats for them, which no amount of stern looks from me can dissuade. She loves her pensioners bus pass, and has all the bus times tables committed to memory. I think she's off to Camborne tomorrow; they have good charity shops, and she's after some books to read. She's also on the look out for a glass butter dish. She'll find one; she has the charity shop eye.

Alfie's mock GCSE examinations began today. I drove him to school. He was beside himself. It may be something to do with the fact that he's done very little revision over Christmas. I was torn between feeling cross and feeling sorry for him. He has not enjoyed secondary school at all. He has been very difficult to be around as a teenager. In fact he has been absolutely vile at times. But I love him, of course. And I see so much of me in him, that it hurts to see. Self-conscious, gauche, shy, awkward, wanting to fit in yet dying to stand out. He's no idea what he wants to do at college really. He's scared of the future. He has been nigh on impossible to guide and help. His manner is so stubborn and defensive. But all you want to do is help. As a parent, your hope is that your children walk a generally easy path through life, all the while knowing that it's virtually impossible to do so.

Sam is still at home. He returns to Uni next weekend. I'm driving him. I have high hopes that we'll spend the weekend in Liverpool absorbing the culture, but I think I'm kidding myself. I'll probably cut a lone figure on the ferry across the Mersey on Saturday next. He lives on Penny Lane, but had no idea of it's significance until I played him the song. He's in the middle of thrashing out his dissertation, several essays and revising for an exam. And eating me out of house and home, and wandering the halls at four in the morning.

Olly has been off school poorly today. Two days into the new term, and another virus has struck. This one combines the joys of a sore throat and headache with a nasty temperature that spikes during the day. He's been flat out on the sofa, and asked to go to bed at six thirty this evening. He did have a lovely weekend up until that point. Out for a birthday play date with his best friend on Saturday, and a trip to Porthcurno via the scenic route on Sunday.

We got Betty out of the garage, and took her for a run along the coastal road to Land's End. She only broke down once, and that was because her fuel gauge doesn't work, and Marc hadn't taken into account the miles we'd already done in her. Luckily we had some spare fuel. You should always have spare of everything when you own an old VW camper. Luckily I always have hot chocolate, tea bags, long life milk, bottled water and a packet of biscuits stashed away. So we made a brew while waiting for her to be topped up. It was all very amicable.

Marc is currently restoring a VW soft top Beetle. She's even older that Betty, and he's named her Rizzo. I've only seen photos of her, cause she's in a garage just outside Cardiff. Marc attends to her during the evenings he is away (he currently works just outside Newport). I have her hub caps, wing mirrors and lights under my bed. I'm not at all pleased about this arrangement, but it would seem that my bedroom has become a depository of stuff. My dreams of having a feminine retreat from this male centric household is looking less likely than every before. I've demanded a summer house. Well, wouldn't you?

We have had really varied weather; one day bright sunshine, the next low cloud and poor light levels. It makes for interesting decisions clothes wise. It also makes for some stunning atmospheric views. I am one the few people I know that enjoys this time of year. A pared back earth reveals form and texture that I don't generally notice. Sparse vegetation helps me to see beyond to the shape of a tree of the pattern in a rock. It's a sculptural time, and also one of expectation. The buds of early Spring are already pushing up, and there are daffodils in my sister in laws garden.

This week I hope to get out into the garden for a little while. I have a pond to clear (the high winds have bought down so many palm leaves that it's buried in them), some bulbs to plant that should have been planted last Autumn, and a bit of faffing too. If I want that summer house, I need to think about moving shrubs and plants around. And Shipshape has entered its' quiet period. There's not many visitors around during January or February, so I'm trying to use my time wisely. There may be painting in my future too. Lots of doors and walls and skirting boards.

I write this post as a tribute to you, dear Rose. I hope that this finds you and your family happy and well.

With much love,

Leanne xx

Saturday, 30 December 2017


Hey folks,

I'm sat in the kitchen drinking a gin and tonic. The rain is pelting the windows outside, and the wind is gearing up for another stormy night. Christmas has passed in a blur of wrapping paper, food and socialising. Apart from some horrid twenty four hour bug that felled me, I have mostly enjoyed it all. I love Christmas Eve, and I love the bit in-between Christmas and New Year. The expectation followed by the quiet contemplation. And permission to lounge and loaf. To lie in, and follow a leisurely pace during the day. A bit of topping and tailing around the house, but no more than that.

I've enjoyed the blustery walks along the beaches with the boys, and absolutely loved spending time with them all. We've laughed (and bickered) and watched good (and bad) TV. We've gone to the cinema and been to the shops. Alfie bought me a rather gorgeous mug and Sam a book on foraging for Christmas. Olly bought me a couple of lavender bags. They had some nice things too; clothes, Lego, crafty bits, books, hair products. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary, but it was a treat to be able to dip my hand a little deeper into my pocket with my Ship Shape spoils. I enjoyed filling their stockings with a few extras.

Of course I think I spoil them too much at this time of the year. And my Mum went totally over board with the chocolate, biscuits and Quality Street. And I guess that I could get bogged down in the guilt of it all, and how I get sucked into the commercialism of this time of year. My dream is for a simple affair, but that's more about my feelings at this time of year than anything else.

When I look back on 2017, there has been a lot of stuff happening. Ship Shape of course. But other highlights include our holiday to France, the butterflies and moths spotted, my running progress, Marc's new job that finally saw him settled, little adventures with Olly, Mum moving back to Cornwall, a smattering of writing at the dining table and a slow confidence building within. Not bad, if I say so myself.

I have made a couple of promises to myself. Not resolutions. Small steps forward perhaps. And if I was to choose a word to see me through the new year, it would be 'persevere.' I intend to keep marching forward, looking up instead of down. I intend to do battle with the black dog and win more than I lose. I intend to commit to paper more than I did in 2017. I intend to be the master of the smear free executive shower screen.

I wish for all of you a happy, healthy and exciting 2018. I reckon it's going to be a good one. Thank you so, so much for stopping by and reading what has become a rather sporadic blog. Another intention of mine; to kick start this space. I have so enjoyed connecting and sharing with you all.

With all my love to you and yours,

Leanne xxx

Monday, 27 November 2017

But Is It Art?

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I visited the Tate St Ives. The gallery has recently re-opened after a four year programme to extend the site. The whole building had been closed for about 18 months while work was in progress, and I was really keen to see the finished space. If you'd like to read a little more about it, I've included a link here. I also wanted to purchase my Locals Pass, that allows free entry for the year. I'm not sure how many have been issued, but I think it's one of many attempts by the Tate to interact with the local community, and encourage them to visit and enjoy the space and exhibitions on offer.

The general feeling surrounding the Tate here in St Ives, is one of dislike and distrust. It is seen as elitist and up itself. The artwork contained within, is not 'proper' art. It's there solely for the entertainment of the tourists. It's aloof and distant. It's a blot on the landscape. Only last week, the letters section of our esteemed local, The Times & Echo, included two epistles attacking it. One doubting how much the town's economy depended on it, the other mocking the art within. 

Of course, the real gripe behind the letters, to my mind at least, has more to do with the uneasy alliance of local and visitor than any real dislike of the building and what lies beyond. It was wholly snubbed by a good deal of the town when it first opened its' doors, and many - including my in laws - complained that it wasn't intended for the likes of them. It was seen as an unnecessary addition to the town, and a waste of time and money.

Tate St Ives was conceived in part to showcase the rich artistic heritage of the town. As many of you know, artists have always been drawn to the area, because of the landscape and the light. It was an escape and a refuge for artists fleeing tyranny abroad during the 1930s. Nuam Gabo and Piet Mondrian both lived here for a time. It became a vibrant hub of artists working in close quarters and sharing ideas and influence. Painters, sculptors, potters, writers, composers and poets have all been inspired by their visits and stays in St Ives. It continues to inspire; indeed it inspires me everyday. I have millions of photos that illustrate it. I have journals that wax lyrical about the place. I have this blog. I have stories and poems in little notebooks, that attest to it's grip on my thoughts and feelings. My Instagram account is full of it.

There is still a vibrant artistic community here. There are several galleries, artists studios, classes, workshops and craft stores dotted all over town. There are authors and poets who live among us, or who frequently visit to get their hit of inspiration. We have a festival every September, that show cases art, poetry and music. There's a lot going on. Last summer term, Olly's year group were invited by the Leach Pottery to visit. Olly was full of the potters wheel and the amazing structures created on it. The Leach then visited his school, and made plaques with the children. Olly's has pride of place next to my own Leach pot. It has a pasty, two shells and a starfish embossed on it, and he couldn't have been prouder when he brought it home.

I absolutely adore the Tate. Just seeing it as I pass on my way to work, or while walking the dog on the beach makes me smile. It is a beautiful building, that echoes the landscape in which it sits perfectly. It is a sculptural shape, not unlike those that Barbara Hepworth created in her studio here in the town. It's not imposing, and indeed the extension is mostly built into the rock, so does not overwhelm the beach beyond. I think it is beautiful.

But what it contains within hat really takes my breath away. If you aren't a fan of modern art, then I guess it isn't the place for you. But should you ever visit St Ives, I would love for you to take a peek inside. The entrance fee is reasonable, the shop is great, the café serves a great coffee and has fantastic views. But the art. Oh my goodness the art! Heron, Lanyon, Hepworth, Wallis, Nicholson, Guabo, Rothko, Picasso, Mondrian, Frost and Hilton are all there. Huge, bold canvasses and intimate works. Sculptures that make you want to reach out to touch and caress. Art that mystifies and poses questions. Shape, form and colour that calms the soul or uplifts the mind. Pieces that challenge our concepts and ideals. Stuff that makes you take a step back in wonder. It's all there.

My favourite? Possibly the painting by Peter Lanyon in the first photograph above. It's called 'Porth Leven', and indeed tracks the fishing village from one end to the other as if one is looking down upon it and along it's length at the same time. But there's also another picture hidden within; a fisherman and his wife. He has a lamp, she is wearing a shawl. Can you see them? I remember seeing this painting when I was pregnant with Alfie. I just stood in front of it, and stared at it for the longest time. I fell in love with the shapes and the movement created on the canvas. I just enjoyed the perspective and story told within.

Of course, for some it's a load of old rubbish. It hardly compares to a Constable, for example. And they're probably right, if what you want from a painting is realism, fine artistic skill and all the rest. But this painting just pulls me in. It has a quality about it that is just out of reach of my abilities to describe. It's not a intellectual thing. It's a feeling thing. And that's the best way I can describe it; it makes me feel. I'll be honest and say that I don't have too much truck with some of the nonsense that is written on those little blurbs beside the paintings. Apart from any factual detail. I can see why one would be put off; they are a bit pompous and don't speak my language at all. But get past that bit, and you enter a magical world. And so I find the art itself very inclusive. I can make of it what I want. I enjoy some paintings for their colours alone. I enjoy the composition of others. Some leave me cold.  But some transport.

I think I am very lucky to live in a town that showcases some of the most exciting British art of the past one hundred years. And that also sticks it's neck out once in a while to show off the wall pieces too. St Ives so far away from everything and everywhere, and it can sometimes feel as if it is in isolation from the rest of the UK, and indeed the world. So something as fab as the Tate gives me a connection to it all. Some of the upcoming exhibitions include a Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury Group retrospective and also Patrick Heron's huge canvasses. I am very excited about both.

I feel privileged to walk the same cobbled streets that many of the artists that exhibit here. I stare at the same views, picking up and turning over similar pebbles and shells. I can stand on Rosewall and look down on the town, cupping it in my hands and tracing the curve of the earth. all the while knowing that Ms Hepworth did too. I'm constantly staggered by the clarity of light, and the clear sharp quality of the land, the sea and the sky. It's like a sharp intake of breath on a frosty morning.

Tell me, what do you think about twentieth century art? Does it leave you cold, or does it inspire? I'd be really interested to know your thoughts.

Leanne xx

I should also add that I've become aware that my commenting on your lovely blog posts don't seem to be registering. I've no idea why, and I was most upset when I realised. I hope that you don't feel ignored or unread by myself. I think I've sorted the problem, but please know that I love each and every one of you and your posts, and all of your support and commentary of my space here. xxx

Monday, 20 November 2017



That's what I've  been lately.

Blessed with fine weather, empty beaches, tideline treasures and skies that go on forever. And I know that people bang on about it all the time, but the light here has been exceptional. Crystal clear. Sharp as a tack. Punching well above its' weight. And with that clarity comes those contrasts of colours that lift the varying hues of blue, brown and green around us.

Sand is not just an expanse of flat colour. It's a myriad of twinkling forms, with each grain vying for attention. The foamy surf beguiles with its' cotton candy tufts that advance up and over our wellies, before retreating into the swirling mass of the ocean. The blue sky seems huge overhead, like a silk parachute rippling ever outwards. I feel enveloped by it all. Not in a manner that can overwhelm, but rather included as a valued member. I feel that I intrinsically belong.

Blessed to belong.

Belonging and blessed.

Last weekend, Olly and I were lucky enough to find By The Wind Sailors and Goose Barnacles on Sennen beach. And a teeny tiny star fish too. The barnacles were attached to a green plastic bottle, discarded by the retreating tide in a rock pool. By The Wind Sailors had likewise been washed up on the strandline. They shimmered in the sunshine. An iridescent blue, that wouldn't have looked out of place at a seventies disco. Olly was fascinated; he doesn't remember seeing them before. There were lots of cuttlefish remnants too. The bit that you sometimes see hanging in bird cages. Watching Planet Earth 2 that evening, we were transfixed by the footage of a cuttlefish in action. How they can bewitch crabs with their undulating colour changes. It was difficult to equate this amazing creature with the bleached white bone on the beach.

This weekend we stomped down into town and headed for harbour beach. Stomped is indeed the word, because Olly really didn't want to go out. His pouting lips and glaring eyes made it quite clear that he would have much rather stayed at home lounging in front of the tv. And maybe I would have let him. I do sometimes. I think he was glad he went. We went hunting for sea glass and pottery shards. He has the best eye out of any of us for it. It is one of the most enjoyable pastimes to be had. Grubbing about at the water's edge, looking for treasures. There's a pile of our spoils on the windowsill in the kitchen. A solid spray of blue, white, green, brown and pattern that we will sometime pop into bowls scattered around the house. Our seaside spoils.


That I am.

I hope that you are all well?

Leanne xx

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Life Lessons


Well hello there.

I've been meaning to catch up for a little while, but time and tide, and all that. Anyway, life here trucks along. Half term was actually completely manic. The town was crazy busy, and therefore so was Ship Shape. We worked every day, and I have the repetitive strain that comes from cleaning glass shower cubicles to prove it. Mum moved down last Friday, and is currently ensconced in the teeny spare room. Olly is loving having her here. She has chocolate. As am I. She does my ironing. Ultimately the plan is for her to move into a place of her own, but I think we are leaving the search until the new year. A little time for the dust to settle, and for her to get into the rhythm of life in St Ives.

Running has rather taken a back seat these past few weeks. I don't seem to have enough hours in the day at the moment, and something has had to give. But I had a quite wonderful run this morning, and I am hopeful that November will give me further running opportunities. We will be quieter this month and next. The town has less visitors during these months, and I have to admit that I am relishing some time to devote to other things. Things like painting, baking, writing, pottering and walking. And just being in one spot for more than five minutes.

An interesting work development has been landing a contract with a lettings agency to clean empty properties before new tenants move in, or after they've done a bunk and moved out. It's been a very steep learning curve for Karen and I. Not the actual scrubbing. But dealing with - how shall I say - really bloody rude and patronising people who think that one's worth is decided by the assumptions made on the job one does. I don't know about you, but I was brought up to treat others as I would like to be treated myself. And my Dad impressed upon me from a very young age that no-one was more worthy than me, because of a position they held in society and vice versa. I think I've lived my life with these two tenants as a core of who I am. I am equal to all, and all are equal to me. And I would hope that I treat those around me or with who I come in contact with, in a respectful manner.

It's been a real shocker that both me and my sister in law have been roundly patronised, looked down upon and taken for fools this week. It has sat very badly with me. I've felt angry and frustrated. I've taken real exception to the idea that just because I clean for a living it somehow makes me stupid, and also some kind of serf. Honestly my blood just boils thinking about it now. Don't get me wrong; I've had similar experiences in the past. But it has been so transparent this week, that I've had difficulty processing it. On the one hand I want to drop my degree into conversation, just to inform these people that I am more than a mop and a bucket. But this has conflicted with my core belief that I am as worthy a person as the next man, regardless of education or employment. I have found my accent slowly sounding more posh, with really long words creeping into rather mundane conversations. I actually dislike the fact that I'm doing it. But I also really dislike the way that I am being treated, and there is an inner conflict building within.

I mutter to myself  "this says more about them, than it will ever say about you." And then find myself enraged that they are talking to my sister in law in that manner too! I feel protective of her, and want to slam them up against their poxy filing cabinet. It really has bought out some overwhelming feelings. I have had to acknowledge to myself that I have got into bed with the devil. For the moment, I am biding my time. I'm hoping that I will somehow change their perspective of others through my sheer force of nature, sharp wit and arcane literary references. However, I'm realising that there are some people that I will have dealings with that are complete dicks, and no amount of Mrs Nice Leanne will ever change that.

It has also been a lesson in humility. This week, we have cleaned two properties that frankly were the most depressing spaces I have ever stepped inside. The landlords had given scant interest to the maintenance and upkeep of said properties. Kitchens were falling apart, and in a very poor state. Bathrooms were run down and tatty. Both properties were in poor decorative repair, with shoddy workmanship throughout. Basic, a landlord would probably call it. I think the word is exploitative. People have to rent these God awful places, because there is such a shortage of decent social housing. The rents charged are sky high, because of the areas that they are in. And they are in this hideous housing trap of paying exorbitant rents, and never being able to save for much else, least of all a deposit on their own home. Cornwall has this reputation as a wonderfully high end place to come and stay. But scratch a little beneath the surface, and there are low wages, zero contract hours, nowhere affordable to live and a few making a mint out of the many.

Karen and I were open mouthed at first, wandering around not knowing where to start. How do you make a silk purse from a sows ear? How can we make this look anything other than bad? So we cleaned and scrubbed and polished and mopped and buffed these horrid places to within an inch of their lives. We felt that at the very least, new tenants could move into somewhere clean and fresh. It was the least we could do. And yes, I know we're being paid (although not as much as you might think), but there's a sense of pride to be had in a job well done. And a sense of sadness that we could do no more than we had.

I came back from one such clean today, and was so grateful for the lovely welcoming space that I live in. I was so grateful for the security that Marc and I can offer our boys. I was happy to feel the heat from the radiators. I was struck by the fact that perhaps our home isn't so bad after all. Yes it's showing a few signs of wear and tear. But it's looked after and maintained. It's full of the personalities of the people who live there, which includes the height charts of Sam, Alf and Olly scratched into the utility room door frame. It is welcoming and inviting, with a few scuffs here and there. It is a home.

I sometimes wonder if there is any point in worrying and fretting about things I cannot change. I live in a society that is unequal in so many respects. That showers opportunity on the few, and dumps on the many. But fret I do. I know that my children have probably a better than average chance of getting on in life. I know that I will probably be okay when I retire. For the most part I have my health, and I can provide for my family so that they can have theirs. I'm not stuck in the poverty trap that so many others are. I'm eternally grateful to my parents for the sacrifices that they made for me in order that I had an education that was not to be had by most kids in my neighbourhood. My horizons were broadened, and I was able to step a little way up the social ladder. The class system still exists in this country; it's just packaged in a different way now. Look at Grenfell. Look at I Am Daniel Blake. Look at food banks and Provident and Cash Converters.

I feel impotent with rage at it all.
And guilty.
And sad.
And a bit of a hypocrite too.


Thanks for taking the time to read a little snapshot of the processing that has been going on behind the scenes here. It really is appreciated.

Have a lovely week. I shall be baking Christmas cakes, painting the landing, cleaning my own house, walking in the fresh air, taking Alf to the first of three college open events, trying to get Olly to stop saying the word 'moron' and having a gander at the new Home Bargains store that's just opened in Hayle.

All my love,

Leanne xx

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Candid Autumn

Well hello.

The photos above are from last week, but the weather today has been very much the same. A lovely,  warm, crisp Autumnal day. I've managed to walk the beach most days with Honey, and it's been a real tonic to take my shoes off (flips flops or die until November), paddle in the foamy surf and feel the sand between my toes. The summer wasn't the best here in St Ives, and my days off from working were just not beach worthy. I'm hopeful that Olly and I can venture down this weekend. I've promised him a trip to the cinema, but am thinking a pasty and a play on the beach first.

It's the absence of the windbreak that I love. And the reclaiming of space. It's quite hard to beach comb and grub about for nature when Porthmeor is full to bursting with visitors. We are still busy here, but not so many people venture onto the beach. They stick to the other delights that St Ives has to offer, and tend to cast admiring looks at our sweeping stretches of white sand from a distance. I guess that's what a zoom lens is for. I sometimes think that they are missing out, but on balance I'm quite happy for them to stay up there.

We've had lots of Portuguese Man Of War wash up along our shores. Spectacular creatures, with the most amazing iridescence in their colouring. Highly poisonous of course, and dog walkers are wary. Luckily for me, Honey takes no notice of anything when she's carrying her ball, so I have been able to get very close to them. I had never seen them before last week, and was enthralled. They were enticing, and I had to really resist the urge to touch or stroke them. Anyway lots of photos and videos were taken of them to show Olly. Who is struggling somewhat at the moment, bless him.

He has found the transition to junior school very difficult. The infants and juniors are different schools here, and routines, rules and all that goes with it are new for him. Unfortunately, he's regressed back into old patterns of disruptive behaviour and is challenging boundaries, both in the classroom and at home. I do feel for him. He's a complex little boy, who can find it difficult to engage effectively with his peers. He can push others away with words or defensive actions. He's eloquent and quick witted, but this can turn sharp and he can often end up upsetting others. It's really tough to be the Mum of a child who you know is utterly fabulous, and yet acknowledging that their behaviour can be unacceptable for a lot of the time.

Olly has a lovely teacher, who is working hard with him in the classroom. He has a token in his pocket that he can raise into the air if he's feeling agitated. It helps him to manage his feelings and behaviour, and also alerts staff so that they can deal with any issue in the moment. She has also made him a monitor to give him some responsibility in the classroom, especially during the transition parts of the school day. He enjoys this very much, and today helped her to use the guillotine. It was all he could talk about on the way home from school. I have hope that he will settle down eventually, but honestly there have been moments (yesterday evening comes to mind) when I'd love to be the Mum of three laid back, socially adept kids. I envy those who breeze in and out of school, unaware of the stress of the 'walk of shame.'

I know I've written these tales of woe here before, and I also know that there's not a Mum out there that has it easy every minute of every day. All of us have our own light and shade, and so do our children. I was a very socially awkward child. I never knew the appropriate reaction to a situation. I wasn't a child with a ready smile, or a cutesy face. I was more liking to be picking the scab on my knee or kicking the bus stop, than grinning at the elderly neighbour or charming those around me. I am not, and haven't been that person for longer than I was. So I grit my teeth, and keep plugging at this parenting lark. Like we all do.

Work carries on apace, as does running. I'm back up to three runs a week, and am gearing up to try and fit in a fourth. I run about five miles, which takes me about forty minutes. It fits in with work, dog walking and all the other stuff  that I have to cram into a school day. I'm happy with that. My latest challenge to be able to run up a particularly steep and winding hill in one go by the end of November. At the moment I can get nearly halfway before I'm bent double, with my hands on my thighs. I'll get there. I enjoy running during the Autumn so much more than any other time of the year. The heat has gone out of the sun, and so I'm not sweating like a bull mastiff five minutes in. The roads are quieter (my route takes me along the back roads for some of the run), and I'm not getting heckled by drivers who seem furious that you are on their turf. I run at the edge of the road, and am very visible. I expect they treat cyclists in much the same way. I don't get it though.

I am also counting down until Mum comes to live in St Ives once more. She will be living with us until at least after Christmas, so I have been sorting out the house in order to accommodate another person. For the time being, she will be sleeping in Sam's box room. But when he comes home for Christmas, I'll be turning the conservatory into a private space for her. It's the best I can do, but I feel bad that I can't find her anything more permanent. And although I know that she won't mind at all, I mind. I mind that she is coming down here, to be shunted around. She's such an amazing woman, and life hasn't been kind to her in her later years. I'm hoping that I'll be able to score her a reasonably priced rental after Christmas, and that she can start to make a real home for herself. I just want her to have her own front door. And maybe a cat.

I've also bottled putting up a short story that I've recently written. I need to be in a 'sod it' kind of a mood to hit publish, and I haven't been. It's daft really, but there you go. The thing is if I don't do it soon, then this blog of mine will disappear in the ever decreasing circle that it's in. I feel as if it needs to evolve a little, or else it will just run out of steam. I do feel as if I'm just repeating the same subjects in much the same way, over and over again.

Anyway, there you have it. A little bit of candid musings during the witching hour of a Thursday afternoon. This evening I hope to be drinking all the tea and settling down to the new David Fincher produced Netflix series. It's called Mind Hunter, and I'm terribly excited about it; pyschopaths, profiling and pyscho babble. All from a perspective of truth. I literally cannot wait!

Love to you all,

Leanne xx