Friday, November 17, 2017


Published in Womans' Weekly 2017 Sue Kittow, from Cornwall Following a very unfortunate episode with a colleague at work, I suffered from a panic attack on the way home which was so terrifying I had to leave the car in a layby. I still had to drive to work every day, but it was a horrible ordeal, and I dreaded every journey. But I was ashamed of my fears, and didn’t want to admit them to anyone, even my husband. I continued to have panic attacks while driving for over 25 years which made me feel extremely vulnerable. I tried seeing a therapist, but he said he didn’t cater for “minor” problems like that - only death and divorce - so I did a lot of research and tried to live with this constant fear that had me in its grip. I hated the loss of independence; the fact that this irrational fear was holding me back, and imprisoning me. When I finally told my husband, he insisted doing most of the driving, trying to help, which in retrospect probably made matters worse. It was the death of my husband that made me realise I had to get in the car and drive, for there was no one else to do it for me. I was terrified, but as I needed to drive for work and to walk my dog, I just had to get on with it. Gradually my fears receded to the point where, although not overly confident, I can drive several hundred miles without panicking. I’m much better if someone’s in the car with me, and I wouldn’t want to drive long distances, but I am much more confident now and I’m not plagued by these anxieties that used to cloud my whole life, making me feel imprisoned, useless and belittled. Last year, I wrote a blog about my driving fears, and was amazed at how many women contacted me saying, “This made me feel so much better - I thought it was just me.” Sue’s tips Talk to other people - don’t be ashamed of how you feel. Start with small trips and then bigger ones. Do a long or difficult drive with someone else, then do it on your own. When getting over panic attacks or any anxiety, remember it’s not a straight line - you will get wobbly days and that’s OK. It will get better. Marilyn Roberts, Somerset Marilyn Roberts, from Somerset, stopped driving after a car crash. Despite repeated attempts to conquer her fears, she is still plagued by anxiety and avoids driving where possible. “I used to drive to work, but over the past few years we’ve had four accidents and I now dislike driving intensely. In the last six years I’ve got much worse. The main reason is fear of another accident because there are so many cars on the road with arrogant, inconsiderate drivers. I hate having to drive fast because I feel like I’m on the dodgems, where one small error can have catastrophic results. This makes me panic stricken as I’m afraid I will make a mistake and cause an accident. Also, being small myself, I can’t see properly to judge the width of a car or see round it, and I’m never comfortable: my foot isn’t properly on the accelerator so I’m always too tense, and can never relax. A smaller car might help a bit but cars aren’t made for small people: my body won’t fit into it comfortably. A car’s a very claustrophobic environment. But I felt I had to do something, so last year I had 12 driving lessons for Fear of Driving with a really good instructor. She had dual pedals which made a difference, so I felt safer with her in the car. But on my own I still feel really nervous. She told me I was a good driver and there was no need to worry - that it was all in my mind - but I was always shaking and never felt confident. I am driving a bit more now - I drove twice over the weekend, but I won’t go when it’s busy though I don’t mind driving at night. Perhaps I could try hypnotherapy - if someone came up with something I’d give it a go. Other people take driving for granted but I hate feeling like this - it makes me feel isolated and inadequate, and that really affects my confidence.” Marilyn’s tips Try Fear of Driving lessons - it does give you confidence Be open to trying new ways of getting help Don’t give up! Vivien Simmons, from Dartford, Surrey “I didn’t learn to drive until I was 35, and I only learnt then in case of an emergency. I was always very nervous, and I hated parking or reversing, but I never had to drive far as I could use public transport. Then when I was 50 my mum had a stroke. She lived in Cornwall and a friend came with me and drove my car down there, but she had to fly back early, so I had to drive my car back to Dartford on my own. I was terrified, but I had no option - I had to get back. I couldn’t sleep the night before and was terrified the whole journey but I kept thinking of it in short journeys of 10 miles and did that 25 times. I had to keep going back and forth because of mum’s recuperation, and I was really nervous, but each time got a little easier. Now I’m 65 and much more confident. The journey doesn’t worry me so much, but I still prefer it if I’ve got company.” Viv’s tips Visualise a long journey in short sections. Know the route well and plan plenty of breaks. Keep in the main flow of traffic and keep to the speed limit. Don’t drive too slowly and don’t be intimidated by other drivers. Listen to the radio or play your favourite CDs or audio tapes.

Friday, August 1, 2014


Facebook is an amazing medium. Through my sister-in-law, Shelagh, who lives in Vermont, I discovered that Andrew Halcrow, a yachtsman from Shetland, was coming to Falmouth in October to prepare for his second attempt at a solo non-stop circumnavigation of the globe under sail only. The Facebook page had been set up by Jim Strang, a Shetlander who no longer lives there, and isn’t known to Andrew, his wife or family. Through the Facebook page, I was able to get contact details and interview Andrew and his wife just before he left Falmouth in November 2013. Andrew’s first attempt was in 2006 when he set forth in his 31 foot steel yacht, Elsi Arrub, which he built 26 years ago. All went well until, some 300 miles south west off Australia, his appendix burst. Andrew phoned his wife, Alyson, on the satellite phone, and she alerted Shetland Coastguard who then contacted Falmouth international rescue centre. Andrew was taken on board a bulk carrier to hospital in Albany, Australia, for an operation that saved his life. Months later, back home in Burra, Shetland, Andrew was amazed to find that his boat had been found afloat. “I got a phone call at 7am one morning to say she was safe,” he said. And so Elsi Arrub arrived back in Shetland in May 2007. “Last year I shot blasted the deck and painted her up and she looked really good when I’d finished,” Andrew says. “It was as if she was all dressed up and nowhere to go. So Alyson said why don’t you have another go?” Months of preparation followed, and Andrew decided to leave Shetland at the end of September and head for Falmouth for final preparations. “It was easier to leave from Falmouth as it’s the best route to cut out a month of bad weather,” Andrew explains. “Also, Falmouth is a great place to leave from as it has a great seafaring heritage. It’s a great place to return to, as well. Andrew’s father was a keen sailor and encouraged his son’s interest in boats from early on. By the age of 18, Andrew was keen to build a boat. “I’d always wanted to travel, so sailing and travel seemed a good idea,” he explained. As a blacksmith he was used to working with steel, so he built a 31’ (10 metres) steel boat. “I started the Elsi Arrub in 1985 and launched her in 1987. Then in 1988 I set off with my brother on a circumnavigation for 5 years, arriving back in 1993.” But the five years sailing with his brother only underlined Andrew’s real ambition. “I had a hankering to do a singlehanded non-stop circumnavigation so in 2006 I set off.” Bearing in mind that this boat has no engine, Andrew is relying purely on his considerable sailing skills to get him out of trouble. And as his first voyage was cut short, this trip is all the more special. “I’ve been wanting to do it for 30 years,” Andrew says. And his faith in Elsi Arrub is especially touching. “She’s been part of my life for 26 years and I know her inside out. She’s a huge help and I have great confidence in her.” He pauses and smiles. “I’m looking forward to the Trade wind sailing which is as good as you can get. And being at sea for a long period of time is good. I like the solitude although I’m not really a solitary person. It’s the challenge and a big adventure.” In addition, as Andrew teaches sextant navigation, he will use just a sextant, with GPS for emergencies. The hard part will be being away from family and friends. “Alyson and I spend most of our time together so it will be difficult being apart,” he says. “And I’m not looking forward to the bad weather, or tinned food for a year.” He grins. “The first proper meal will be wonderful back here in Falmouth.” As to the future, Andrew and Alyson are looking forward to some leisurely cruising – “we’ll take off and sail somewhere,” he says. Somewhere warm? “Antarctica,” he adds, to my surprise. “If I don’t do this trip now, I am never going to do it. I dinna want to be sitting in an old folks home, being 90 years old and thinking I really should have done it.” In the meantime, his growing number of followers can do so via the Facebook page or the website:


“I spent 37 years in the Navy, and when the chance came up to take part in the Clipper Race, I grabbed it,” says Mick Leonard who has wanted to sail round the world since he started sailing aged 12. Now 58, Mick says, “I’ve done lots of coastal sailing deliveries around Europe, the U.S., Middle East and Far East and the Mediterranean, and I’ve done the AZAB two handed. This is a way of joining all the dots from the past.” The Clipper is the longest ocean race in the world covering 40,000 miles, six continents and 16 ports in over 11 months in the biggest fleet of large one-design ocean racing yachts in the world. What makes this race unique is that it’s for amateurs - 40% of crew have never sailed before they start their pre-race training. This year (2013/14) 670 crew were selected to take part, from truck drivers to film directors, nurses, vets, professionals and students. When I spoke to Mick who was in Rio after the first leg, he’d got through the Doldrums, and survived the Shellback Ceremony (to celebrate a sailor’s first crossing of the Equator). He said, “I know the The North Pacific will be very tough physically and mentally because it can be wet and bitterly cold. But I intend to get round and enjoy it.” At the end of November, Mick’s boat was off Albany, Western Australia. “We were adjusting the sails and one of the sheets span off the winch and a fully loaded rope caught my leg.” In agony, Mick was carried to Albany to see a doctor who said Mick had damaged the ligaments in his knee and pronounced him unfit to continue. “I was absolutely gutted,” Mick says. “It’s been so frustrating to watch the race and see what I’m missing out on.” Thankfully, Mick’s knee is healing well and after physiotherapy he hopes to rejoin the boat in March. The Clipper race is a steep learning curve, and not just about sailing. “I’ve learned patience,” Mick says. “When I commit to something I commit absolutely, and when I see other people not pulling their weight, it annoys me. But I’ve learnt that people don’t necessarily have the same attitude as me. It’s about being competitive at the right time and relaxing at the right time.” Ben Turner was 18 when he took part in the 2011/12 Clipper Round the World Yacht race. “It’s not so much about the racing, but the people you meet, the contacts you form and the teamwork. It’s about working with people.” Ben has sailed since he was two, and was inspired by endlessly watching the video of Ellen MacArthur’s 2000 Vendee Globe, but help came from another professional sailor. “My mum worked with Pete Goss and she told him my dream of sailing round the world,” Ben says. Pete told Ben about the Clipper Race so he followed the 2007/8 race online, then saw the Clipper racing yachts in the Solent. “Later I got some money from my grandparents who’d passed on, and I decided to do the whole trip in my gap year.” The cost is high – around £45,000 for the whole trip and between £3-5,000 per leg. “Though that includes your training and all your kit.” The intensive training lasted a month, and being the youngest, Ben felt at a disadvantage. But after a while he was made Watch Leader. “That really boosted my confidence and the others looked up at me then. You have to be very calm under pressure and be someone they can talk to. You’re the skipper’s right hand man.” After some amazing adventures, Ben’s confidence grew. “The skipper said I was capable of becoming a very good sailor. I came back a completely different person.” Now, Ben has his Yachtmaster Ocean and his Cruising Instructor qualifications. “It’s given me an opportunity to move into the sailing industry and make it my career,” he says. His advice to anyone considering entering the Clipper race is, “Even if you can only afford to do one leg, go for it. It changes you massively. It’s tough work but makes you grow as a person and toughens you as a sailor. Even if you’re not looking to go into sailing as a career, the contacts you can make are lifelong and you’ll be amazed who you meet who may help get you get work somewhere else.”

Monday, November 26, 2012

Amanzi restaurant review

AMANZI RESTAURANT, ARWENACK STREET, FALMOUTH 01326 312678. Ian and Carolyn Turton, who were born in Zambia and Malawi respectively, took over Clarks restaurant in Falmouth in July 2010 and reopened in May 2012 as Amanzi, which means water in Zulu or Xhosa. “We wanted to bring our own feel to the restaurant,” says Ian, “and differentiate from the rest of the competition.” Ian previously owned a restaurant in Johannesberg for five years with his brother. “Although our inspiration is our African roots, our dishes are an infusion of flavours from across the globe,” Ian says. “With a focus on seafood, grill and delicious vegetarian options, we have secured a wide range of Cornish suppliers so that we can literally offer people the opportunity to “eat local, taste global”. All our meat is Cornish and our vegetables come from an allotment near Stithians. Since we’ve changed our name we’ve had a lot of encouragement to have more African dishes: we’re the only restaurant in Cornwall to provide African food.” “We try and look after people and give them the whole experience,” Carolyn adds. The restaurant has a warm atmosphere with music playing quietly, tea lights and a rose on each table and a wonderful selection of wooden African art on the walls. By 8pm all the tables were taken and the place was buzzing with customers of all ages – Amanzi has only had a handful of quiet nights since they opened in May, and soon we could see why. The service is excellent – very warm, friendly and informative yet unobtrusive. Deb and I had a glass of South African Chenin Blanc while we tried to decide what to eat, but eventually I chose a starter of seared scallops with hogs pudding and a crab bisque sauce. The scallops were so tender they melted in the mouth, the delicacy of the scallops was offset by the robust hogs pudding, and the velvety crab sauce made for an unusual combination that worked really well. Deb’s squid was very tender, unlike the chewy morsels I’ve usually eaten, and served with spring onions and a soy, ginger and honey dipping sauce that was light but provided a good balance of flavours. Being messy, we dripped sauce on the table which was cheerfully wiped down between courses – another bonus point. My poached cod with mussels in a creamy white wine sauce served with crusty bread was fabulous – the mussels were steamed and fragrant, just as they should be, the cod tender and subtle, and the sauce was delicate but tasty. The Bobotie, a South African dish of spiced lamb mince, baked with an egg topping was served with yellow raisin rice and apple and fig chutney. We were told to mix these together before tasting them and we could see why – the lamb was quite bland but mixed with the sweetness of the raisin rice and the chutney was absolutely delicious - so good I could eat it every day. We shared a mixed salad and some seasonal vegetables – runner beans, carrots and red cabbage that were beautifully nutty – but the main courses were so delicious and plentiful we didn’t have room for the greenery. The food is unusual, and beautifully cooked by someone who really understands it, particularly fish. We had a wonderful experience, so do go – but book, or you may be disappointed. Dinner £12-18 per main course. Open 7 days a week from 5pm, Saturday and Sunday open daytimes but bookings can be made for lunch. Sunday lunch £9.95 (£12.50 for 2 courses) Traditional and African Christmas menus will be available.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Isabel Wolff


“I thought what an odd environment it must be where you are being stared at, every square inch of you, by a complete stranger,” says Isabel Wolff, talking about her latest novel, The Very Picture of You

Isabel is not an artist, so interviewed six well known portrait painters at length. “I didn’t sit in on any sittings: I felt that would be too intrusive, but I spoke to them about the technical aspects.” She also had her portrait painted in order to experience the other side of the canvas. “I became fascinated by the relationship between artist and sitter. The intimacy of it and what is said in the sittings: the things that can be revealed as well as those that are hidden.”

Unlike many of her heroines, Isabel has not been jilted at the altar, lost her mother nor had a disappearing husband. But she believes that “novels are informed by who the writer is: their moral judgements about the world and their values and their understanding of human nature. I think that anyone who writes a good novel has to have a sharp eye and an understanding heart.” Isabel believes her earlier journalistic training helped her develop a sharp eye, and the rest of it comes from her own experiences.

Anyone who has read Isabel’s novels knows they are in for a good read. “I aim to write with a mix of poignancy and humour because we can all connect to that,” she says. “I hope my readers enjoy a page turning story with lots of twisty mysteries that takes them out of themselves for a while and they look forward to getting back into.” She looks up and smiles. “I hope they find them rewarding and amusing and think about the book afterwards - I also hope they are as well written as I can make them.”

Writing commercial fiction, Isabel says that the story is the main thing but finds the plot very hard to work out. “It’s like making a map of a place you’ve never been – you’ve got the general terrain but you want to put in the geographical detail and also little blind alleys and cul de sacs to lead the reader down and get them pleasurably lost. But you have to lay the clues properly.” She finds it’s like problem solving. “It’s like making a jigsaw puzzle – you make it then smash it up and the reader puts it together for themselves. It has to be hard to see the pattern but not so hard that they can’t do it.”

Isabel believes that, “The power of a good story well told is to move, entertain and uplift, that is the privilege. That isn’t about how many copies you sell - it’s about touching someone’s heart.”

Her many fans will be pleased to know that the novel she is currently writing, which will be out in 2013, is partly set in Cornwall. “It’s semi-historical like the last two, and has a slightly supernatural element.”

Isabel’s favourite parts of Cornwall are the Roseland Peninsula, and the Isles of Scilly. “All my earliest memories are of Cornwall: the excitement of getting up very early and driving down to Penzance, then the thrill of getting on the Scillonian to get to the beloved Isles of Scilly. “ She smiles as her children run around the garden. “It means so much to me now to be able to give my own children the kind of happiness that I had of Cornwall. It’s a place of intense longing and happiness.”

The Very Picture of You published by HarperCollins available now

Cornwall Today FEb 2012


Having fun and keeping healthy

“Everyone knows how to laugh – it’s a language we all use: no one’s taught it, and it makes us feel good,” says Steve Patterson. “A child will laugh on average 3-400 times a day whereas adults only laugh on average 16 times a day – if that.”

Steve Patterson moved to Cornwall in 2001 from Devon, and had numerous jobs but wanted a challenge. “I worked in drug rehabilitation as a support worker and knew the benefits of laughter but wasn’t sure how they could be utilised,” he says. “So I found a course in London on Laughter Yoga. We learned how to take groups including all the different meditations and breathing exercises – some of it was quite spiritual. And we learned how to take it into schools, old people’s homes, prisons, hospitals and businesses.”

Steve was asked to take laughter yoga sessions at the NEC in Birmingham, then at WOMAD and Glastonbury in 2010 which proved such a success that he formed the Cornwall Laughter Yoga Club and hasn’t looked back. Madan Kataria, a medical doctor, started Laughter Yoga with just 5 people from a Mumbai park in 1995. It has become incredibly popular and there are now several thousand clubs in over 65 different countries.

“In early 2011 I trained in India with Madan Kataria, and it was amazing. There were 29 people from 16 different nationalities and it was an amazing way to bring all these nationalities together. There was a man from Vietnam who spoke very little English but was able to communicate through laughter.

“Laughter yoga is a unique concept where anyone can laugh for no reason, without relying on comedy, jokes or a sense of humour,” Steve explains. “We initiate laughter as an exercise in the group, including eye contact, which gets everyone smiling, and lots of childlike playfulness. Soon, the exercises turn into real and contagious laughter. The reason we call it Laughter Yoga is because it combines laughter exercises with Yogic breathing. This encourages increased oxygen to the body and brain which makes you feel more energetic and healthy. The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on scientific fact that the body cannot tell the difference between fake and real laughter – you get the same physiological and psychological benefits.”

Steve believes that childlike playfulness is extremely important. “Children laugh when they’re running along whereas we adults have it drilled into ourselves that we haven’t got time to play - we have to be serious and work. In fact when you bring play and laughter into the workplace it can be so beneficial for team building, self consciousness and creativity.”

Laughter has also been proven to help relieve pain, cancer, depression, anxiety, grief and stress. “Laughter gets the endorphins going which is the body’s happy drug and pain relief. It also gets the body’s immune system going,” Steve explains. “Norman Cousins wrote a book called The Anatomy of an Illness – he was very ill and found that if he laughed heartily for 10 minutes he had 2 hours of being pain free.”

Steve currently runs sessions in Newquay and is looking to expand into Falmouth and Truro. “My ultimate dream is to have a laughter club in every town in Cornwall,” he says – with a laugh.

But he has found the western perception of Laughter Yoga different from that in India. “I’m concerned that the name Laughter Yoga doesn’t capture the essence of what it’s about,” he says. “We don’t do yoga poses - it’s all about yogic breathing, so we need to come up with another name. In India yoga is known as being very spiritual whereas here it’s more known for keeping fit. 10 minutes’ laughter yoga is equivalent to 30 minutes on a rowing machine for cardiovascular exercise but there’s more to it than that.”

Helen Young would agree, having been to Steve’s classes. “I’m a great believer in the healing power of laughter – none of us laugh enough,” she says. “A lot of women release stress from crying and I think it’s more healthy to release stress through laughter. It also exercises the lungs and keeps me feeling younger. The idea is to try and get people to regain their sense of humour, which I think has really gone downhill – because of political correctness people are afraid to laugh these days.”

And how did she feel after the first class? “It was a definite release of stress and put me in a good mood for days,” she says. “A great place to practise is in the car – I tried and felt a lot better for it. It made me see things a bit differently.”

A sentiment that Steve echoes. “I’m passionate about how fantastic I feel after a session, both as a teacher and a student,” he says. “Laughter yoga has taught me the importance of laughter and playfulness in life for everybody. We don’t laugh as much as we could, and I think that could be why we get ill and stressed.” He pauses and his eyes crinkle up into another smile. “The best times we have are when we’re laughing and having fun.”

Cornwall Laughter Club has sessions on Thursdays at 7pm at the Hotel Victoria in Newquay

Cornwall Today March 2012

Waterfront Crew

The coolest club for young people in Falmouth

“It’s amazing the stuff that’s dropped onto Falmouth waterfront,” says Mel Bailey, Student Manager at Falmouth School. “We’ve found a gold watch, an entire toilet, a set of false teeth, countless trolleys, stereos, TVs and chairs. On the Roseland we’ve done cleanups by canoe which have been very successful. It’s fun and reaches areas you can’t reach by foot.”

Mel’s talking about some of the work undertaken by the Waterfront Crew, a group of youngsters who work out of school hours to help clean up Falmouth waterfront. In return they receive meals, go sailing or kayaking and learn to work together, so they feel included. As Mel explains, “It's a very simple idea – it's about earning your reward and having fun with it.”

The idea was pioneered in 2007 by Falmouth School in conjunction with Falmouth Police, Falmouth Town Council and local businesses. “We wanted to show the good work that young people can do, make that higher profile to give a boost to their self esteem, and so that the community got to know about them in a balanced way,” explains Mel. “It’s also about a sense of belonging – feeling part of something with others. The bond that has developed between the young people is immense.”

Police Community Support Officer, Sean McDonnell adds, “The waterside area in the town centre looked neglected and no one seemed to take ownership of it, so we thought why don’t we tap into that fantastic natural resource, and clean it up? If we can assist youngsters in trying to take ownership and take care of their own environment we’re helping them develop into good citizens who will want the best for their town,” he continues.

The businesses in the town have been supportive and delighted at what the young people have done, and the cleanups are rewarded with fish and chips, canoeing, sailing, kayaking etc. “From early on the youngsters’ perception was that the town was helping them and providing something, and out of that has come contacts and even employment,” says Sean.

Mel targets young people that she thinks would benefit from the experience, but the selection process is delicate, as she explains: “It’s normally around 20 young people, complemented by extra referrals from the community, the police force, and we blend it in with a mix of other students so they become part of something like any other activity.” It’s all voluntary so it takes place in their own time, after school or at weekends.

Sean adds, “It’s important it’s not seen as a naughty boy reward scheme. So we go for a mix of achievers, some who are vulnerable, young carers, and they grow as a friendship group which has been refreshing to see.” From the policing side, Sean sees other benefits. “It’s built an awful lot of bridges. It’s a great leveler if you’re out trying to kayak or windsurf.” Mel laughs. “They see us fall in the water which happens regularly and that’s a huge barrier breaker.”

The Waterfront Crew have worked with the National Trust, Cornwall Marine Network, Eden Partnership, amongst others, and in 2010 they focused on the gateways to Falmouth to encourage visitors to return. “We cleaned the Dell station, Falmouth Docks cruise ship terminal and also the police station gardens,” says Sean. “The head of Devon & Cornwall Police was stunned and recognized our work as a way forward of embracing young people in the community.”

It’s the youngsters who tend to come up with ideas of where to clean. “They start coming up with ideas for a clean up and select a reward and we see if we can make it possible.” Mel laughs. “The clean ups are as much fun as the rewards which is an unexpected result.” There tend to be 6-8 clean ups in a year, mostly in spring and summer, and in winter they estate cleanups inland in the Falmouth area. But neither Sean nor Mel realized what a huge success this would be. “It’s surpassed my expectations,” says Sean. “We’ve had offers to make it a national blueprint but it wouldn’t work because you need to keep it small or you’d lose that personal side.”

The nurturing aspect is the shared part of the role between Mel and the police. “After the first year, we’ve said if the young people wish to continue and work with younger people, we are more than delighted: it’s good for them to work with other age groups. There’s a huge waiting list now.”

So the plan is to continue as they are, looking after Falmouth, the waterfront, and most importantly, the young people of Falmouth. “It’s about giving consistency to those who don’t have much,” says Mel. “We aim to be there as much as we can for them.”