Tuesday, 5 September 2017

A Life In A Day

I woke up this morning to a rather damp, grey and mizzly view. The light was low and the lamps were still on mid morning. I needed to be at the hygienist for 9.30, and go quote a job at 10. Talk about time management. And also child management. I'd asked Sam to look after Olly while I was away from home, but he announced to me that he was off for a few days. It rather put me on the back foot; childcare has become an issue of sorts since I've started Ship Shape. I guess it didn't help that it coincided with the summer holidays. We've muddled through okay, I guess. It is only part time at the moment. But the way things seem to be heading, it will very soon be more full than part.

I'm chuffed to bits in a way. I never thought I'd be part of something that's taken off so well. And while I don't need my degree (quoting Catullus and Ovid is not particularly relevant), it's fab to be part of something that feels so good. I'm feeling positive inside. My confidence is slowly re-emerging, and I'm daring to dream that this little scrub venture may just be the start of something rather more adventurous.

Anyway, Alfie stepped into the breach, after promises of a pasty, a coke and a bag of crisps. When I got home, I needed to do all the other stuff; washing, vacuuming, ironing, picking up and putting away. But I also needed to do some work stuff. Alfie had gone out with friends, clutching the pasty. Olly wanted to play. I sat and had a stab at working. And I did get some of it done. But there were the constant "Muuuuum," interruptions going on too. They punctuate my daily life, and I have never been very good at filtering them out. I'm terrible for jumping up as soon as I'm called. So it's no surprise that Olly got rather frustrated with it all, and came looking for attention. The kind that required him to sit on my lap and nuzzle into my shoulder.

Oh the guilt!!! His last day of the school summer holiday, and no fun to be had. The sun had appeared by this time, which kind of rubbed salt into the wound a little. I wouldn't have felt half as guilty if it was still lashing it down. What's a Mum to do? The only thing I could. We went out. A well trodden route to Clodgy. I've written about it many times here. It's one of several regular walks that we do with Honey. It was also one that I thought would be the least muddy. I'm adamant that my flip flops remain on until at least the end of October

We wandered up Burthallan Lane and watched the builders hoist roof struts onto a new build. It was all very exciting. We wandered past my favourite house, and noted their abundant apple and pear trees. I made a mental note to add fruit trees to my 'for the garden' list. I do this every year, by the way. We do have little apple trees growing away in a pot. Olly planted two pips earlier in the summer, and they seem to be thriving. All the way along the lane, the hedgerows were laden with blackberries. Olly scoffed his body weight as we wandered along. The ivy is in full flower, and the bees were in a feeding frenzy. So too were the butterflies. I was surprised to see so many; it was rather windy. But see them we did; Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Speckled Wood, Tortoiseshell, Large and Small Whites. It was brilliant. One Red Admiral took rather a fancy to Olly's bright blue jacket and kept fluttering about and nestling on it. Olly loved it.

We looked at the multitude of spiders that seemed to all be hanging out in the centre of their webs. Is that a thing this time of year? Are they on display for a particular reason. Olly got up quite close and personal, which was pretty impressive for someone with a little fear about all things arachnid. The swallows are still about swooping low along the lane, but their numbers are getting less and less. And no sign of the barn owl, although we know that she is still there. The hedgerow flowers are still going strong, although many have already set their seed, their dried and pared back forms in contrast to the lush green of the ferns and grass. We found elderberries and sloes, which I collected (there is a jelly bag full of my hedgerow spoils drip, dripping in my kitchen as I type). A chap out walking told Olly that the blackberries further down the coast path were "'andsome, my boy." How I love the Cornish vernacular. It's not heard as much these days, but is full of friendly familiarity I think. A soft burr of an accent, that suits the environment so well.

Down the path we ventured, all thoughts of returning home gone. Pops was in his stride now and literally galloped down the path, hop skipping all the way. He stopped here and there, climbing this stone and picking more berries. He notices so many things. I'm constantly amazed by that. I always think that he's just whirly gigging along, and then his head shoots down or whips up, and he's pointing and calling. Either he's telling me what he's found, or asking me what it is. He still carries the hope that he'll one day see a crab spider. Or a lizard. Or perhaps even an adder. Bless my boy, with his half cup full attitude.

By now we could see the sea. It was all froth and undulating far out in the bay reaching towards the shore. There were a few people at the point. Some had been out walking, and some were just sat about or taking photos. It was beautiful today. We ambled down to our favourite rock, and Olly climbed all over it. Honey was wagging her tail and barking with glee, and I just stood and stared out to the horizon. We climbed down over the rocks to be nearer to the water, and watched as a large flock of Guillemots passed. Olly had never seen one dive into the water to feed before. It's quite a sight. They hover then keel around and dive down, hitting the sea at great speed. They have a long skewer like beak, that must break the skin of the water at such a force. Anyway it was wonderful to watch so many of them dive bombing right in front of us.

We carried on along the coast path all the way towards Man's Head, the rocky outcrop that overlooks Porthmeor Beach. There weren't many people on it today. A combination of back to school and the wind coming straight in off the Atlantic, I guess. The sand looked very white from our vantage though, and an intrepid kite surfer made his way out over the rolling breakers that were surging in. We wandered past the bowling green, and up the steep hill towards home. Poor Honey was flagging by now (she's snoring on the rug as I type. I thought that Olly might have been too. But no, he bounced and chirped all the way home.

Back home, I sorted out the hedgerow spoils and started gently heating it on the hob. Olly wanted to make some fairy cakes, and so with minimal intervention, he weighed out the ingredients, mixed and scooped the mixture into cake cases. He also ate a lot of it too, but hey, what's the last day of the holidays for? I made the boys the easiest tea ever (fish fingers, chips and beans), and started on mine and Karen's. She was popping round to discuss Ship Shape related matters. So, linguine with red pesto, ham and mushrooms. The cakes were iced with what looked like green sludge. Olly mixed all the food colourings together. He then used every sprinkle in the cupboard to decorate them. I didn't fancy one.

Bath and hair wash, followed by a bit of 'Horrid Henry' signalled the quiet hour of the day. By now Olly was subdued and cuddly. All rubbing of eye and making nests out of cushions and throws. I took him to bed at seven, and let him read until half past. Downstairs I started on the ironing pile, adding names to new school uniform with a Sharpie as I went. No name labels here. They lose everything by half term as it is, and in all my years of parenting, I've never yet found anything in lost property. Back up for lights out, and a tickle of the back and shoulders. Olly is partial to a bit of fuss, and I pandered to him this evening.

Karen and I continued our Ship Shape shop talk, and after she went home, I amended, printed off and filed the days work. Alfie appeared by my side. His new black jeans and Vans trainers came today, and I could tell that he thought he looked the cat's meow. He asked for money to go buy a pizza. The boy has literal hollow legs. I made him cheese on toast, with a side order of Cheerios. And a cup of tea.

Alfie starts his final year of secondary school tomorrow. Olly starts his first year at Juniors. It's all change here at Today's Stuff. The seasons are moving along, and already I can feel that this part of the year will be quite different to what we all have been used to for so long. There's a air of expectation and moving forward. There's a good vibe going on, and I for one am happy about that.

Lots of love friends,

Leanne xx

(The photos above do not correspond in any way to the text. It's all very frustrating. I can now upload my pics, and after a while they appear in my OneDrive account linked to my computer. I don't have the patience for that to happen this evening. So some photos that I took a week or so ago, on another foray out with Olly. I though you might like to see them anyway. I'm not much for continuity, me).

Wednesday, 16 August 2017


Olly and I got home at about 9pm yesterday, after spending a few days visiting the family in Bristol. We were very busy, and the journey home was rather fraught. So instead of hitting the housework running, I'm having a bit of a lazy morning. All the tea is being drunk, Olly is having some screen time (he's thrilled) and I'm afraid Honey will have to wait awhile for her constitutional.

A few months ago, my camera broke (I dropped it. Shhh), and as it's insured I duly took it along to my local Curry's to have it repaired. In the meantime I snapped away using my phone. They got uploaded to that cloud thing, and all was well. Some appeared on my Instagram feed. A few months down the line, and my camera still hadn't been repaired and returned. Enquiries into this state of affairs revealed that said camera had been lost, profuse apologies given, a brand spanking new upgrade offered with a gift token for £100 as a gesture of goodwill. Officially I was cross. Secretly I did a happy dance.

I treated myself to a kick ass blender, for smoothies and homemade peanut butter (so good), and started to get to grips with my new toy. The buttons are all in different places, and I keep turning it off when I'm trying to zoom. I haven't got the knack of some of the functions, and although it's much lighter than my previous camera, it's not as light as my phone. And therein lies the rub; I've fallen out of the habit of taking it out and about with me. And for some reason, I can't access my uploaded pics from my phone and upload them here. I think that some reason is probably me to be honest. Technology in all it's guises is not my friend. I fall at the first hurdle, I'm afraid. I wish I didn't, but I just don't seem to have the intelligence for what is obviously a very straightforward thing to all of you.

I promised myself that I'd take it with me when I visited Bristol. I wanted to take some pictures of my home town, and write a reflective piece about the place that shaped and moulded me. It was all part of my thinking that I would start to slightly change how I wrote here. I use Instagram a lot. I love it's in the moment charm. I enjoy uploading to the stories, and playing the fool. I have made so many fabulous 'grammy' friends there too, and have found that I get out of it exactly what I want. Some days that may be perfectly curated squares, and others some comment that makes me chuckle. But I digress....

I have been thinking about using my blog in a slightly different way. Yes, there will be posts such as these; those something and nothing posts of mine. But I wanted to try and share a little more formal writing sometimes. If that's okay with you? A kind of tentative extending into the arena that I have talked about for so long, but never really had the confidence to enter. This has been inspired in part by an exchange I had with a favourite author of mine on Instagram, who will be releasing her third book in November.

Her first, 'Love, Nina' is a firm favourite of mine, and one I have read several times over. It has always really resonated with me; her writing style, her sense of comic timing, her sharp observations, her sometimes rather wicked sense of humour. But also the pathos and humanity that she articulates. There are no great flowery words, but there is a depth of knowledge of all things worldly and cerebral. Her background is a similar one to mine, although there are differences too. I have stalked her relentlessly online. On the off chance that she does read this, I make no apologies!

Anyway, what do you think?


So, lately.....

  • Me, Olly, Mum and my nephew visited Longleat Safari Park. It was blooming brilliant. I am now obsessed with the preying mantis. I was struck at the trust the park had in letting children (of all ages) interact up close and personal with all kinds of animals. This trust fostered a real feeling of respect and awe at the animal kingdom; big and small. The keepers were helpful and knowledgeable, and while I would rather these wild things were thriving in the wild, they aren't. Thanks to us. I have hope that this kind of experience might just go a little way to altering that one day.
  • Sam is definitely gong to apply for a Masters in International Relations. I'm not exactly sure what this will entail (apart from more student debt), but the world could do with young people getting involved in its' systems of operating on the world stage. Perhaps it will start to become a thing of flexibility, rather than rigidity. Or am I being hopelessly optimistic?
  • I have once again started buying house plants. My track record with them is not great. Those greenish fingers of mine, don't seem to extend inside the house. However, spurred on by lots of lovely pictures of greenery filling the homes of others, I've bought a few of my own. And they're doing ok, so fingers crossed for a home filled with shape and form and lots more
  • Shipshape Cleaning will soon have it's very own logo! These things are important. Like headed stationary and a bag chock full of gorgeous cleaning supplies, with the right kind of micro fibre cloth. And jeans that won't reveal all when you're bent double vacuuming under a sofa.
  • I have been persuaded to give GOT a go. Sam and I are halfway through series two. There's a lot of sex isn't there? And boobs. I wish someone would have warned me. I'm no prude, but even I squirmed watching a bit of rear end loving with my son.
  • I am seriously thinking about getting another dog. I'm blaming CJ and Gillian.
  • My Mum will be moving back to Cornwall in October. I am beyond happy. She will be living with us until we can find a suitable property to buy. My feelers are already out. Mum will be seventy next year; it's about time she retired once and for all.
  • I've put on weight. Am I the only person to put on weight during the summer months. All that peanut butter may be to blame.
  • My house looks like a pigsty. Anyone know of a good cleaner?

Have a good week, lovelies.

Leanne xx

Monday, 7 August 2017

Running Up THat Hill

Alright then?

Firstly thank you all so much for your good wishes on my new business venture. Karen and I had an appointment with our small business adviser yesterday. I think it went well; we spent a fair bit of time talking about our husbands.....

I felt a bit odd sharing it with you, and if I'm honest I think it's because what I'm doing isn't particularly fancy. It's not cool or urbane. It's not even that interesting. There's only so much you can say about cleaning toilets for a living to be honest. What's important (for me anyway) is the mere fact of doing it at all. Any of you that have read my blog over the years, may be familiar with the ups and downs of my mental health. At times it has been completely debilitating, and I've spent many years making sure that my life is small enough to manage without losing the plot completely. And sometimes that has happened anyway.

I've always seen myself as a failed human being. Failed in that I never really took advantage of any of the opportunities that have come my way. It's a ridiculous notion I know. For some of us, just getting up in the morning is a success story. Creating a home for our children is another one. Being nice to people, just because you can, one more. And I'm aware that if any of my friends were to describe me, they would probably use the words funny, kind and caring. And I'm more than happy with that being my epitaph. I'm proud that I am person who cares. I like making people laugh. It comes from a place within that I'm not consciously in control of. And kindness is underrated frankly.

But I return again and again to that 'f' word. Why? It's from listening to those voices that tell me I'm not good enough. It's from listening to a world that tries to denigrate a woman if she is not juggling fifty plates in the air. It's from listening to those who would criticise the way that you raise your children, and the choices that you make for them. I've listened to all that chatter for far too long. It's damaging and hurtful and does no one any favours.

However, something has happened this past year. I've stopped feeling like such a failure. Running has helped enormously with that. Running has not just strengthened my legs and my heart. It has strengthened my mind. It has forced me to dig deep and address these feelings of failure at a very basic level. Running was really tough for me at the beginning. And actually it remains a challenge for me now. It forces me to get up and get outside, when I'd much rather curl up and stay in. It's made me challenge my physical capabilities over and over again. It's made me address that inner voice that tells me to quit, or that I can't do it.

And with the running has come all the fringe benefits. Yes I feel fitter and stronger. I feel better about myself when I look in a mirror. I'm not just seeing the room anymore. It's made my confidence grow. When I completed my first 10k earlier this year, I couldn't believe how emotional I became. As I crossed the line, I started to cry. And I didn't stop! It was a huge moment in my life. The fact that I actually achieved it at all. How often have I fallen at the first hurdle. That I had the stamina to complete what was a gruelling cross country cliff top race, was a complete revelation. I didn't come down from the high for about a week.

Of course the running has rather taken a back seat during the long summer holiday. And all the cleaning is giving me a different kind of workout. I'm not stressing about it though. Come September I'll be back out pounding the hills of St Ives. Running up towards Rosewall, and coasting down through Towednack. Looking at the sea to my right and the granite studded hills to my left. Breathing in that gorgeously salt scented air, and sweating cobs.

Here's to running, scrubbing, blogging and chuntering.

Love to you all,

Leanne xx

(I should add, for reasons of transparency, that should my friend Liz ever be asked to name my qualities, she would almost certainly add 'shrew' to offset the syrupy niceness. I'm ever thankful for her keeping me balanced).

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Bristol Fashion

Well hello.

This year, my sister in law and I decided to do something about our idle day dreaming of going into business together. We've spent I don't know how many evenings talking about what we could do over the years, and always drawn a blank. She is a nurse working in primary care, feeling much the same as I did when I was counselling in GP practice; stressed, over worked and under paid. We both wanted to earn a decent amount of money that would put coffers into the pot, but we didn't want to be working all the hours that God sends. I don't want to go back to work full time while Olly is still at primary school, and she wanted to cut her working hours back, now that her children have flown the nest.

We aren't at all crafty. We didn't want to open some kind of shop. We didn't have enough room to upcycle furniture. She's not interested in cooking or baking. I'm not interested in professional car booting. And then we hit upon it. Something that we are both very good at doing indeed. Something that requires an attention to detail, and a love of bleach. We could clean for a living! We've both helped out friends in the holiday trade before, but we felt that we could market ourselves as women of a certain age who know exactly what's required for a ship shape and shiny house. Elbow grease, a beady eye for dust bunnies and an extendable feather duster.

So we sent out feelers, and lucked out with a property management company who were looking for just the kind of thing that we were offering. Apparently good old fashioned cleaning is a dying art. Who knew? St Ives depends for the most part on the visitors that swell our numbers during the summer months. But we are also a year round holiday destination. It costs a lot of money to stay here, and there are some very swanky places that you can stay in. The company that were interested in our services provide swanky places for swanky people. They are also in desperate need of a good quality housekeeping service.

And so this month, Ship Shape Cleaning Services was born. And boy have we hit the ground running! It's been a full on month of learning how design and operate spreadsheets, prepare invoices, engage with laundry companies, florists, wholesalers, designing logos, tallying figures and recording expenses, never mind the actual cleaning itself. Most of our work is on a Friday and Saturday, with some mid week work too. Olly has been enrolled into a Friday holiday club for the summer holidays, something that I agonised over. I felt so guilty about it. But I get the feeling he's going to love it; a lot of his school friends will be there so he won't be all alone. Alf will pick him up for me, and also look after him on a Saturday afternoon, once Marc has gone sailing.

I've just finished processing the invoice for this month. We've assigned ourselves roles within our  partnership, and I'm the one dealing with the money (the irony of a D at Maths O Level is not lost on me right now). I've had to get my remedial head around all sorts of vexing things; tax, expenses, insurance and so on. But it's been good for me too, because I've stepped right outside my comfort zone and tackled stuff that I would never have had the nerve to do even a year ago. I keep seeking out Marc, going over the same set of questions, and he patiently tells me the same set of answers.

Of course the cleaning itself is not a doddle. The pair of us work really hard. We've set very high standards for ourselves, and we pride ourselves on a job well done. Although it's early days, I think that we work well as a team. We clean the bigger properties together, and the smaller ones separately. I tend to clean the bathrooms, while Karen attends to the kitchens. We strip and change the beds together. We also check each others work, so that nothing goes unnoticed (like the piece of jigsaw and single oven chip that I missed under a sofa the other week. Oops). Karen has an obsession with smears, and I get very excited about the aesthetic of the bed linen.

And although we work hard, we also have lots of free time. Karen confesses that she isn't used to it yet, but I relish it because it's entirely guilt free. I've worked hard, and I can use the rest of my time to do all the things I do at home, and other fun stuff as well. It a win/win situation as far as I'm concerned. I'm also happy not to have a full time job, because my voluntary role at the Infant school has stepped up a gear too. I'm now a parent governor, and from September will have overall responsibility of the Infant school library. The governor role has been fascinating, and I've already been involved with some important decision making. The library will be such a wonderful place to be responsible for. I cannot wait to start lunch time reading sessions, poetry writing, introducing the author and all sorts of other activities for the children.

The above photos were taken this morning, in and around the part of St Ives that was once home to locals, but is now mostly holiday cottages and apartments. Traditionally I avoid it during the summer months, but now it's where I earn my bread and butter. I feel a little more connected to it, as I wander these streets with the tools of my trade in a sturdy hessian bag. I'm noticing all those little quirks and quaints that make my home town such a celebrated place to visit. Of course my mood may be quite different at the end of the summer, but right now I'm rather loving being part of the hustle and bustle of town.

How about yourselves? Are you all well?

Leanne xx

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Back Once More

This morning I took Honey for a walk along part of the coastal path nearest my home. The main reason was to catch a glimpse of the Barn Owl hunting in the fields that have been left to grow wild. She is nesting in one of the dilapidated outbuildings on the retired farmer's land. I saw her last week. It was miraculous. A flash of white in my peripheral vision made me stop and look to my left. And there she was. My first thought was that it was a seagull, but I instantly knew that was wrong. Up she rose from the fields rippling with tall grasses and thistles, clutching a mouse or a shrew in her talons. She glided towards the tumbledown out house, and in through a small gap. I waited with baited breath, hardly believing my luck. Of all the things to see on an otherwise humdrum day. I watched her for about half an hour hunting in the field. The way she flew, then twisted and took the dive towards her prey. It was emotional in that way that watching something so utterly natural, and yet completely beguiling is.

I didn't see her today of course, but I know that she is being monitored and watched. Protected by a band of brothers who make sure that she is safe, and that her chicks don't come to any harm. An army of like minded people armed with binoculars, and filled with the same awe of her presence. I did see a great many butterflies; red admiral, comma, meadow brown, speckled wood, gatekeeper and the painted lady above. The others were far too busy squabbling, flitting and tumbling around. But she let me get close. She let me take countless pictures, and introduce her to a family of Americans that were hiking into town. I found myself telling them all about their journey from Africa, and how their generations migrate all the way up through Spain and France crossing the channel to end up here. Another miraculous thing, don't you think? That this most elegant of butterflies possesses so much grit and determination to go forth and be.

The weather was practically perfect today. The sea was the colour of cobalt, calming and clear. The sky carried wisps of clouds, and the sun was warm. The gentlest of breezes came in off of the Atlantic, and it was a joyful couple of hours spent out on the cliffs. I had a feeling that I would be writing it down to share with you all. I've had my new computer for about a week now, but apart from setting it up, I've just not had the time to write. But now I have, and feel much better for it.

Leanne xx