My Achy, Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus.
Ah, they don’t write them like that anymore. Here’s a section from the second verse,
‘You can tell your ma I moved to Arkansas
You can tell your dog to bite my leg
Or tell your brother Cliff whose fist can can tell my lip
He never really liked me anyway.’
Never hear much about line dancing these days and poor old Billy Ray, who apparently released 12 albums and 44 singles since 1992 yet I only heard of one of them, is now best known for being Miley Cyrus’ dad.
I woke up (always a good start to the day), with My Achy Breaky Heart running through my head the other morning. Everything in my world is now heart related.
“It was a terrible shock to me when I realised I was getting too old to die young anymore.’"
The marvellous quintet of autobiographical novels by Edward St Aubyn have been mainstays of my ‘books I can happily re-read’ group of old favourites for many years and the above quote has never failed to delight on reading it again. I read Book 3, ‘Some Hope,’ the other day and for the first time that particular quote had more than usual impact.
This poor blog has been languishing for a while now, unattended and seemingly abandoned. Even some readers have noticed! The reasons owe less to my habitual dilatory nature, but rather more to recent events. A blog devoted mainly to travel finds its raison d’être called into question after a couple of months spent rooted to an armchair with only hospital trips and visits to the GP as light relief.
A ‘significant’ heart attack – aren’t all heart attacks ‘significant?’ – is the culprit. A tad more serious than a stubbed toe, my excuse last time I was this inactive.
Even so, after weeks and weeks of blood tests, scans, trailing wires and bleeping machines, the remedies have so far been the greatest inconvenience. Beta blockers, blood thinners, various examples of chemically induced ‘downers,’ all conspired to induce a zombie state. The new regime is working though. Blood pressure is practically at minus levels and I have the resting heart rate of an Olympic athlete, without the accompanying fitness.
In those early weeks, going out required a prodigious act of will, even getting out of the chair required careful planning, but life must go on, so we go out. We don’t go far, at times I was forbidden to drive anyway, but with Marigold taking the wheel we visit a couple of nearby hotels for morning coffee.
It’s a bit of a novelty being a passenger. I still find myself stretching out one or other leg to operate a phantom clutch or brake pedal, but as I mentioned in the company of a complete stranger sat alongside us in a hospital waiting room the other day, it’s rather nice to have one’s own chauffeur. I certainly wasn’t expecting the response to such a trivial remark to be quite so impassioned from a fellow heart attack victim.
‘Of course, the word is of French origin,’ the man seated next to Marigold declaimed. Yes, we did know that, but we’re British, we’re reserved and a hospital waiting room rivals a great cathedral for its obligatory imposition of hushed speech.
My fellow patient was a step ahead of me in the process, clad in one of those one size fits all gowns that gape open at the back. Alarmingly so in his case. More than sufficient to reveal the absolutely pointless nature of the disposable modesty pants he wore under the gown.
Imagine a bank robbery where the miscreants’ faces are disguised, supposedly, by the addition of a stocking ‘mask.’ Now, take that image of a distorted and flattened nose dominating an otherwise perfectly recognisable face and transpose it to the vision of (un)loveliness on open display beneath the gaping folds of a floral hospital gown. I resolved to request a plastic bag from Tesco as an additional aid to modesty when my gown donning turn came. Or a duffel bag.
‘Yes,’ our informant continued, shifting on his chair slightly to afford passers by a further glimpse of his undercarriage, ‘The term chauffeur comes from the French term for stoker because the earliest cars were steam-powered and required the driver to stoke the engine, heating it up, before it would start. Chaud means hot in French, you know?’
Yes, we did know, but were spared a continuation of the lecture by the welcome sight of a nurse beckoning to him. He leapt to his feet, far too swiftly, in my opinion, for a man attending a coronary heart disease clinic and, more pertinently, revealing in full frontal display everything below his navel to the rest of us.
Marigold began to visibly shake, a familiar precursor to full blown hysterics, but a man seated opposite beat her to it. Within moments we were all bellowing with laughter.
It’s supposedly the best medicine, isn’t it?
One of the most glorious beaches in Europe is just down the road from us and we regularly visit two hotels that directly overlook the beach. They’re popular places, but every hotel worth its salt, especially out of season, welcomes non residents to swell the takings. In our case, a couple of mugs of coffee isn’t perhaps their idea of the ideal customer, but you win some, you lose some in the hotel business.
The hotel we patronise least, our second choice, is just down the road from our ‘favourite’ and is very swish indeed. Three different people told us on our first visit that local Cornish celebrity resident Dawn French held her wedding reception here. I remain unsure of the correct response to such information.
It’s adults only here, no children, no dogs and, oddly, no staff. A notice greets the newly arrived, saying in effect, we know you are here and someone will come to attend to you very soon. The Big Brother connotation, we are being watched, I find a tad unsettling. The residents are mostly couples and either very young, in their 20s, or old codgers like ourselves.
Well, like me anyway!
They appear to like lounging about on the terrace overlooking the beach, visiting the spa areas or sipping cocktails at the bar. I spoke to a rarely spotted member of staff who said hardly anyone walks down to the beach or even leaves the hotel after they arrive.
‘It’s cool to chill,’ she said. Oh, okay, we can chill with the best of them, but surely not for a whole week? Apparently, that’s what most people do here.
The other hotel, slightly further along, is far more laid back. There are children here, not always a reason for rejoicing, and dogs are welcome, which we invariably like to see. They make excellent toast, the staff, not the dogs, – no, toast is not toast wherever one goes, there are infinite varieties of toast – and provide ginger biscuits to accompany coffee.
Even better, there are free newspapers for patrons and various areas with views of the beach for quiet enjoyment of our morning coffee. Our favourite place is the ‘Tranquillity Space.’
We were in there the other day and the only other person was a man standing by the window looking down at the beach. Presumably imagining himself alone as the chairs we were seated upon had very high backs the recently breakfasted guest gave vent to a thunderous fart. I couldn’t resist from saying ‘well, that wasn’t very tranquil,’ and as the poor devil rushed out Marigold erupted into hysterics that were even louder than our recent companion’s contribution.
We walk our local beaches, within the limits of what a barely functioning heart will permit. Fistral, Mawgan Porth, Watergate Bay, they’re gloriously empty apart from the odd dog walker in Autumn, although surfers are still out in force atop the waves.
We first walked these beaches in the 1960s when Cornish beaches and surfing encapsulated the spirit of the age.
A relatively new addition to Watergate Bay is a gigantic, well fifteen foot high, sculpture of a surfer, apparently made from recycled milk bottle plastic. As our oceans are increasingly blighted by plastic debris, the choice of material is especially appropriate.
Google Photos has just told me what I was doing in 2010, eight years ago today. If they reminded me what I did yesterday that would be of far greater value. Anyway, eight years ago, to the day, we were in Banff, high up in the Rocky Mountains of Canada, coming to the end of a four week trip to Alaska and the Rockies. I’ll post a few photos of that trip in the next blog entry. The scenery there is infinitely better than that glimpsed in hospital waiting rooms.