Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Chapter Twenty

The last day of the most amazing year of our life dawned today. It is hard to think of just how much has happened in one short year. Neither of us had any idea of what was to lie ahead.
For myself I was well wrapped up in my comfort blanket of my work, my home, my writing groups, my family, and my Linda.
Working with your best friends is what made this aspect of my life such a bonus; whether they are the close group of people you work with around your delivery frame; or whether they are the people you actually delivered to.
Living together in a house that you had both made a home out of is also another bonus. Our garden was a delight and the area very pleasant. For the first time in many years I felt I could actually have finally settled somewhere in this area.
Writing and sharing your work with like minded people was also a huge bonus in my life. To have them listen to my work and to be able to listen to their's, was the highlight of my week. I felt so stretched and so inspired as each week progressed and homework was submitted.
Loving your family is the greatest bonus of all. The nearness of each member brought me more comfort than I could have ever dreamed of. And the knowledge in my head of two beautiful daughters living their lives filled me with more happiness and pleasure than I could ever say.
Finally; to round off my comfort zone; there is the closeness and understanding of being with Linda. Always encouraging, always supportive, and always there to share life, she is the other half of my soul.
But what about the itch I could never scratch.
The only niggle in the comfort zone; the only dark cloud on the horizon; the only thought that made me turn my head and gaze unseeing before me...what about my dream?
Since childhood I have always wanted to be beside the sea. Nothing else seemed to matter except to be living on the coast. The sea has always been my 'safe place', my 'playground', my 'life'.
I remember as a small boy living in Wishanger back in the late fifties; I remember a little incident with my dad. I must have been about four or five at the time. Susan was up in bed having the obligatory afternoon nap and I was putting together a wooden jigsaw puzzle on our dining room table. The picture on the puzzle showed different animals dressed as human beings at the sea side.
Crammed full of detail, in one corner, it showed a couple of families of animals living in cottages beside the sea. I knew something was wrong and mentioned it to my dad as I showed him the finished puzzle.
"Look Dad; that's not right is it," said I pointing at the offending bit of the puzzle, "Nobody lives at the seaside. They just visit it for the day and then come home; like we did."
My poor old dad. Half asleep on his feet after getting up at half three in the morning before completing his milk round and getting home nearly twelve hours later. His answer was blunt and to the point.
"Dont be daft; of course people live at the seaside. Lots of people live and work there."
Then he said the magic words.
"Anybody can live at the seaside."
And from that moment the dream was born.
Every book I read as a child told of the good things to find there.
David Copperfield ran away from brutality, to live with his auntie beside the sea; he knew he would be safe there.
Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, the boys on Coral Island; Masterman Ready; Treasure Island; 20,000 Leagues under the Sea; Hornblower; even Rupert the Bear and Enid Blyton books. All these pointed towards a better life living on the coast.
As I grew older and holiday'd at the sea side I realised just how much I needed to be at the coast. The sound of the waves called to me with a siren song; the cry of a seagull equally so. It became an obsession; to me it meant living and holidaying all year round...and at the same time. I could dream of little else...and it became even more of a priority when I could have let my children share in my dream too.
That they wanted to share the dream and live at the seaside became a passion for the three of us...but there are always circumstances.
Sadly, that part of my dream was never meant to be...but the dream still remained.
And now I am here and most of the dream is fulfilled.
I now live at the coast; I now work at the coast; I am now part of life at the coast...and the bonus now is that I share this with Linda.
Anyway; never mind the comfort blanket. Linda and I are curled up in bed on New Years Eve morning and the boiler has stopped again and the house is freezing. One of us will have to get up and fire it up before making the first cup of tea of the day. It may not be a comfort blanket but I have the crochet'd blanket and duvet clung under my chin and I'm not getting up. Linda can make the tea this morning.
You find me in the kitchen now making the tea. I'm still not quite sure how I lost that one; but lost it I did. Linda got to stay in bed; I got to get up. The boiler is doing something anyway and some warmth is spreading around the happy home. My feet are like two blocks of ice so I know were they are going when I get back into bed; straight on somebody's backside.
Half an hour later we were both curled up in bed reading our books. Linda hasn't spoken since the expletive laden diatribe that followed my feet sliding against her bare backside. I can only thank God I had put the mugs down first; I am sure the bruising will fade on my arm in time.
All forgiving by now, Linda was all smiles as she asked if I would like to cycle with her to Tregony after breakfast to get the papers.
"You can christen your new bike and its only a five mile round trip."
I couldn't get ready quick enough.
"I used to do the London to Brighton cycle ride in a shade over three hours about thirty years ago," I bellowed at her from the bathroom, "This'll be good."
There really is something to be said for the old adage about..."Don't engage your mouth before you've got your brain in gear."
We left the vicinity of our house, knowing the neighbours would be watching, and headed down the small slope of the road towards the creek. We then cycled alongside before turning up the hill and heading towards our goal.
Within minutes I was gasping and wheezing like a broken down steam engine. They must have heard me in Penzance. Just before my heart gave out completely we stopped beside the phone box. Linda dismounted gracefully and stood beside her bike. I fell off mine and clung to the phone box as my new bike toppled into the hedge.
As fresh as a daisy, Linda stared anxiously at me as the sweat poured off my face and I fought to breathe. We could still see our house.
I know it seems silly now...but I've never had a bike with more than three gears on it before. This bloody thing has eighteen. Linda only discovered I had no knowledge of the bike gears when she asked me..."What gear are you in?"
It turns out that..."Trainers, jeans, a t-shirt, and a jumper!" was not the answer she was looking for.
With a patience and forbearance normally associated with dealing with a complete moron Linda explained the gear system to me. It took several attempts but finally some of it sunk through.
Things were a little easier after that and we got to Tregony (two and a half miles away) within half an hour. There are a lot of hills.
The last one into Tregony is something similar to cycling up a brick wall and Linda cycled it the whole way. I chose to walk up it. Strangely though; with her cycling like mad and me walking normally...we both got up the hill together.
Coming down the hill was a whole new experience in abject terror. Even with the brakes full on I swear I overtook a Porsche and a Ferrarri on the way down. I cant be sure as I don't recall opening my eyes on the entire hill.
Eventually we got home( total time for a five mile hour and twelve minutes), and after putting the bikes away we sat down for a cup of tea. Linda still looked fresh as if she had just got out of bed after a good nights sleep. I looked as if death had been a merciful release for me. It took a week before the rawness left my throat.
We rested for about eight hours before getting ready for the New Years Eve dinner at The Kings Head.
The evening was everything we hoped it would be. Neither Linda nor I are great party people and it is years and years since we have gone out to celebrate the New Year. Our dinner consisted of seven courses; each one superb. We shared a table with friends we had made in the village and the whole evening was great fun.
War was declared against other tables with the chosen weapons being long balloons that could be aimed and let go of. The ballons would hurl across the room, farting merrily, and batter in to people. It was the sort of behaviour you would see at a seven year old's birthday party; absolutely hysterical.
Four hours later we bade a fond farewell to 2011 and welcomed in 2012.
The life changing year of our long walk, and the year of our big move, has now been and gone. The new year beckons and we are so excited about what it will bring.
Both of us were relatively sober as we staggered home at 03-15 on New Years day. God knows what it will bring us but we shall face it together. Happy New Year to you all.  

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Chapter Nineteen

The trip up only took three and a half hours and we were soon settled into our room at the hotel. Needless to say I was soon in trouble. I always look out of the window on Christmas Eve before I go to bed. I don't care if people's what I do. All I will say is this, "If I should see a sleigh pulled by reindeer and driven by himself hurtling across the sky...then how jealous others who didn't look, are going to be. I rest my case."
In fairness I've got to admit I've not seen anything in 57 years of wistful looking; but one day you never know. Stranger things have happened.
Anyway, I wasn't in trouble for this; I got into trouble for staying awake until 0230 Christmas morning. The problem was I had the telly on while I was reading my book. The 'Noddy Holder Top 50 Christmas Records Show' was on. It was brilliant with all the best of Christmas records for the last million years or so. I listened to them and watched bits as I read my book. Sadly all this kept waking her up. She would pull the cover over her head and go back to sleep but she kept being disturbed.
Honours were proved even when I eventually switched the telly off and put the book away. I was asleep by 0231 and remained in a coma until I was rudely awakened at 0630 by Linda wishing me Happy Christmas and putting the kettle on.
Honours were further restored when it was discovered that a Xmas stocking full of small gifts was on Linda's side of the bed and alas; nothing on my side. It is ever thus.
Breakfast consisted of the continental variety as the hotel was doing no cooked food for breakfast for two days. We each had the smallest portion of cereal in human history in front of us; followed by a cold and solid croissant; and a rock hard muffin. The bottle of fresh orange was nice though.
It really was the most wonderful Christmas; even if the most tiring.
Christmas day was all we could have wished for and it set the pattern for the next few days. In fact it was like having five Christmas days in a row.
Looking like two 'Santa's little helpers', we left each day with a fresh batch of presents in our arms. We would then visit were we would give and receive presents. A huge Christmas meal would then follow. Surrounding all this was much talking and laughing plus loads of catching up. It was a very busy time but also very rewarding.
We also popped into the cemetery. Fiona had been brilliant as usual and had visited and placed wreaths for my dad, Brian, and for my sister, Susan. The two of them are so central to our family for Christmas so it was good to go there.
I managed to get into work at Farnham for a couple of hours and catch up with everyone. It was good to share in a bit of banter and swap stories with them. Everyone looked great although you could still see signs of the old "Christmas strain" in various eyes. I know they had another busy Christmas up there...they always do.
I always tell people..."Christmas at Farnham Royal Mail is great. The system never breaks; but it does buckle; and everyone works flat out. We were doing the 'extra mile' long before Head Office decided to make it a policy buzz word."
Needless to say, the 'poisoned dwarf' chose to ignore me once again and rushed off as soon as he saw me. I have to say I got a certain comfort from that as I suppose we really have nothing to say to each other. It was so great seeing my old pals again though and that will always make up for it. They were my reason for working there; they are my reason for popping back in when I can.
All to soon the trip was over and we headed back home.
We call it 'The Road to Ruan'. Really its the M3, A303, then the A30, before we turn off to 'Ruan', but it has a certain ring to it. We like the idea of being on the 'Road to Ruan' so whenever we are coming home...that's what its called.
We stopped in Exeter for a meal at 'The Barn Owl' and it was superb. I would recommend going there if you can. Good food; good beer; brilliant. We were home just over an hour later.
The following day became another Christmas day for us. Not only did we have presents to each other under the tree  to look at but also all the presents we had brought back with us. Linda bought me a really nice Hybrid pushbike. No excuse now. It looks like I shall have to join her on her trips around the local countryside. More on that in the future.

Chapter Eighteen

I had a great day off the other day when they called me in for the overtime. I delivered for three hours in a little village just up the road from here and then I was summoned into Truro. For the first time since leaving Farnham I was given a mailvan. It was a real old bucket of bolts but it moved and that was the main thing.
I was next given a pile of packets and three bags of mail and pointed in the general direction of Perranporth. I took the precaution of getting myself an A to Z of Cornwall when we moved down here; so with that opened out on the dashboard; I headed off into the late afternoon.
Needless to say our hero neglected to take a torch so the last sixty houses were delivered in the dark. God knows what the customers thought as I blundered around the place like 'Blind Pew'. They must have thought an inept burglar was stumbling by. But I had a great time; my first eight hour day since movin g down here.
Back on my own round the following day a lovely couple at one of my delivery points gave me a xmas card and a tip. It was so nice because there had been no acknowledgement of me or my work from anybody else. I did wear my santa hat though and a lot of the children liked that. You are right of course...that is what Xmas is all about. Several youngsters have told me that;  'Father Christmas is coming'...'Do you see Father Christmas at your work?'...'Is that his hat?'
It's been fun.
My last day of the Xmas working period. Another brilliant Xmas Eve. I wouldn't miss working Xmas Eve for anything. I counted them up the other day and including the Christmas period I worked as a student just after I got slung out of school in 1971...this has been my 41st. Each and everyone of them has been special.
If anything has kept me working for Royal Mail; apart from the history of it, and the close group of friends I worked with; it has been the Christmasses.
Speaking of which...that same close group of friends had their usual Christmas meal but this time without me. If I could have been there I would... and I missed the evening more than I ever thought I would. I've said it before and I'll say it again..."That group of friends made it worth going to work in the morning... and I miss them.
Anyway...enough of that. They'll only take the mickey if they ever find out so I wont tell them. It's my little secret.
I dashed around my duty today because we are heading off to Surrey later and are staying up there for several days. Linda is off work today, so as usual, she organised everything without benefit of my input and experience. She says its quicker and easier to sort things out and get things done when I'm not around and getting under her feet. Such abuse from one so young; I pretend indifference.
As it turned out, by the time I got home, her car was packed with everything that had to be packed; the house was tidied and sorted out; I could find nothing that had not been dealt with; and my lunch and a glass of wine was sitting on the table.
Crushed, I sidled onto the chair; kissed the back of her hand; called her a smug git; and then tried to fend her off as I wolfed down sandwiches and slurped the wine. She retaliated by tickling me and taking the mickey. I lead a tough life you have no idea.
An hour later we were ready to leave...and that was when something strange happened. We locked up the house and walked over to the car; both of us turned to look back; and it was then that we realised the truth. Yes, of course we wanted to get up to Surrey to see our friends and family; yes, of course we had missed everybody more than we ever thought possible; yes, of course they all wanted us to come home; but that was it. Realisation dawned on us both as we turned and looked at each other; we weren't going home. This is home.
It was a sobering thought. I don't know when the moment had come when we realised the truth of it but we both knew it now.
Linda summed it up in the car as we pulled away from our drive,
"This is our home. We're not going home now; we're going away. We wont be going home until we leave next Thursday and head back here."
It made for a funny feeling.