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


  1. Oh Leanne I always love reading your posts as I can totally relate to everything you talk about. Its not easy moving house I think it is one of the most stressful things I've ever put myself through. I am not like D he was quite a nomad before meeting me and would move every two - three years where as I had stayed in the same house for 20 years by the time we moved from Manchester to Lincolnshire. I don't enjoy all the upheaval and not being able to find things once you move. We never did find the cables for the DVD player and went out and bought another one. Boys will always be boys and as my mum always said your kids are only ever on loan to you and you have to let them go in order for them to find things out for themselves which in turn allows them to come back. And she was right three are now adults. I'm not involved as much as I would like to be in their lives now but they soon come running when there is a problem and its lovely when the call with exciting news and you're the first person they have told. And you will always be the keeper of their secrets too which is one of the most important jobs as their mum. Hope this all makes you feel a little better and hopefully by the time you post again you will have some better news on The Wink (I love the name of the house by the way). Ours is Station Farm but isn't actually a farm anymore just the farm house. When I was changing our address with all and sundry from the Willows to Station Farm someone did say to me 'you don't do numbers do you' and no not for the last ten+ years all our houses have had a name. Since moving to the East Midlands a colleague told someone that I now live in middle England in a shire and I suppose they weren't wrong. Always thought I was a bit of a hobbit.


  2. Happy belated birthday, fellow aries! A badger sett near the garden would be a wonderful thing (apart from dug up flowers etc of course!). It all sounds fascinating, the history of the place and of the house. Lovely to have all your boys under one roof. I don't think you're alone in worrying about parental mistakes, but you can only do your best lass. XX

  3. Hi Leanne - just loved this post, it is pure magic as we would say here in Glasgow. It is exciting to plan for a new life in the Wink and I hope all the frustrations and anxiety that this current stage causes will be soon over. I hated being at the mercy of the planners! I spoke to our neighbours the other day, they are planning an extension similar to ours and had the planning office out because the clerk dealing with it felt the plans were not quite right and she didn't like it (her words) although all was within regulations! Imagine that! I am keeping my fingers crossed for you all. I'll be sewing you a floaty frock for those summer evenings when you sit on your garden bench watching the baby badgers emerge. That's a promise!

    As for parenting, it is a hard one. Sam has his final exams in May and is not revising. I am trying my hardest not to nag but it is difficult. Annie doesn't speak in a normal voice with me, the default is a low growl. Makes me want to cry. James is trouble, a tornado in the making. His learning difficulties really impact his daily life. Tantrums are terrifying and more frequent and violent than those of a two year old. I often feel like moving out. Alistair has discovered the art of telling lies but he is sweet and we watch birds together. He keeps me sane. Him and the dog. You are being a great mum to Alfie. I know it has been a volatile few years but he, too, will settle down as he matures and your relationship will grow into a more comfortable one. A change of scene at college may be just what he needs. I would hate to be a teenager now, bombarded right left and centre with a million things at once, trying to find the right path. Not everyone navigates this strange new world of ours with ease. I am wishing him luck for his exams and I am wishing you strength and patience for the next few months. Christina xx

  4. Some major league parental f-ing-up going on here as it happens. I am not getting it right. A little decluttering as well, along with the obligatory wondering why or how I got things in the first place. Also swearing to be more careful about future purchasing, what with it all being a vote for the kind of world we live in etc. The Easter break has overwhelmed me rather. I can't do everything and it's very frustrating. Other people do everything and I want to too. I can totally see you wafting through billowing flowers at the Wink, all golden sunshine and softly lit hair blowing fetchingly in the light breeze. I do hope it all goes smoothly. These things are terminally slow, but hang on in there, it all sounds positive. Lovely to hear some of the history of it all. Well done to you and Alfie, pushing on with the exam revision. I have no idea how to tackle that sort of thing. People around here do not seem to have any sort of motivation. Rather there is a sort of hope that they will be able to sit around not trying and things will fall into their laps. I have all the trains packed away as well - what is it about little boys' train sets that we cannot let them go? CJ xx

  5. I have a loft full of children's toys and books too. I'm sure if I went through it all now I would be able to part with some of it, but I found it too painful to do that straight away. I seem to need that out of sight but still in the house period. I'm crossing my fingers that all goes smoothly with The Wink; it sounds fantastic. Good luck to all concerned with the exams too - it's a stressful time all round. I seem to remember that my alcohol and chocolate consumption rocketed! xx

  6. I’m so keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well with the planners and your dream house comes true. Can’t believe Sam is nearly finished uni and about to do a PGCE. Good luck to him, hope all goes well. I’m sure Alfie will find his way eventually. 16 is a tricky age at a crossroads of decision making. Hard if you’re not sure where you’re going. As for Ollie couldn’t help laughing at his fringe. As a teacher that was one of the things I dreaded most when they were using scissors.
    My loft is chock full of toys, don’t have the heart to get rid of them. One of these days they may come in use . Have a great weekend with all your boys. B x

  7. Oh, it's so hard waiting for those slow-turning bureaucratic wheels to turn. I hope you get good news soon. I remember when we moved house - one the one hand desperate to pack up and move in straight away but on the other trying to not to think that at any point it could all fall through. "If it's meant to be ours, it will be", we said on so many occasions. And it was. And I hope that the same proves true for you xx

  8. What can I say? I love your writing, and this post has just bought your life into colour and action before my eyes! Wonderful! You have a great way with words - and a good grip on punctuation which, quite frankly, can make or break a piece of writing for me - and I am thrilled to be swept along with your life in Cornwall!

  9. This post is the usual stellar piece of writing from you, Leanne. Seriously good. I have my fingers and toes crossed that all goes through without a hitch for The Wink and that you will be floating about in Christina's dress next summer :-) Going through this whole process is stressful enough without the added pressure of big exams looming and parenting worries. You do know that you're not solely responsible for how your children are, don't you?! And, anyway, 15–16 is a bloody difficult age. We mothers can only do our best, feed them, console them, listen to them (and ignore them sometimes) and love them – the rest is down to them. My 18-year-old is the one who'd do absolutely nothing if he could but he does seem to have finally realised that these A-levels are quite important if he wants to go to uni! Hang in there. Olly's haircut made me laugh out loud - boys... Hope you have a lovely birthday booze-up. S xx

  10. Hi Leanne, I've read your post three times now and I'm still digesting everything you said. So much going on with you right now. I really hope everything goes well with the house for you. I think it sounds like a wonderful opportunity, I just hope it isn't too stressful. I had never heard of the mundic situation before, it's really interesting. I'm glad to hear all is basically well with your boys, even if it's a bit tricky with Alfie still. I know it's been hard with him for a few years, but it sounds like you're both figuring it out, which is really good to hear. I hope you had a good time with your friend celebrating your birthday. Thinking of you, take care.

  11. Hi! I'm over because... well, let's just say I spotted your name on a couple of blog posts for people I really like and I was just browsing blogs in a spare moment. This line caught my eye:
    "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."
    Yes, I relate totally. I'm a laid-back mother myself, or have been until they hit A level time when a little work pays dividends. I think feeling you've made a cock up comes as part of the job description for anyone with normal kids. I have a 17 year old son who was idle as anything and couldn't be bothered working for his GCSEs. I was convinced he'd fail. He didn't do well, but he did good enough. That feeling... that Bad Mother feeling... that is a passing feeling that we get in the middle of yet another s**t storm. I think most Mums honestly would admit to that. I just wanted to let you know. You're not the only one.

    Loving the blog, by the way, and working my way backwards through your life. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Love Reading your posts. And so want to go to Cornwall again. Can't believe your Sam is finishing Uni. Wasn't it Liverpool? And is he planning to teach history at secondary school? As a teacher getting to the end of my career, I'm a bit cynical and fed up with all the cuRriculum changes. But in some ways I still love it - teenagers are endlessly fascinating even if they are also somewhat challenging. Kate is planning to study history with politics at university and my problem with her is that she studies too much and gets a bit stressed.

  13. I missed your post about The Wink, how exciting, you must be beyond yourself. I do hope that everything goes well for you and that by this time next year you're in and well on the way to getting everything as you would like it. I've got everything from Brio to Hornby in the loft and then girly things like Sylvanians too, I really need to have a good sort through but I dread what else I might find up there, we seem to hoard so much stuff. I look back on my children's lives and wish I could do some things again, I think as mums there are things we would all do differently if we could.