Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Chapter Thirtyone

9th March.
                 I'm having a great week doing the mail van delivery at Portscatho. It has been just like old times and I have enjoyed seeing new friends. I am also doing the work I do best and it is a lot of fun. I had to go to St Austell today to pick some visitors up from the station. It was Lucy and Jon.
It was wonderful seeing them climb down from the train.
They are staying with us for the weekend and I could not be more delighted. We got home to settle in and then I took them both for a drive around my two deliveries at Portscatho and Gerrans. That has become a feature of people visiting and I have done it more than once.
Both of them look very well and seem to be enjoying living and working in London. I know Lucy is unhappy were she is working and I hope she will soon have news of a better job offer for herself. The two of them have a flat in London that they are sharing and hopefully we shall soon be able to stay up there with them.
One final bit of good news is that Roxanne has finally managed to get away from that horrible relationship she was in. She has had to be the one to move out, even though it was her that dumped the lying, stealing little prat.
She has managed to get somewhere and is also seeing a really decent lad.
The other festering little object can stew in his own juice for all I care. I am certain that if he doesn't change his attitude and grow up a bit he will spend his life on benefits and drifting in and out of prison. I could be wrong but "hey...watch this space".
It has been many years since I have been in Cornwall with Lucy so I asked her where she would like to go first. I should have guessed...so Tintagel it was. Bringing up your children on a diet of magic and fantasy, plus a grand sense of history seems to have worked. They like the same stuff I do.
It was a bit colder and miserable than we would have liked but we had great fun. It was fun scrambling around on the beach and exploring the great cave under the castle. Suitably eerie and with the ever present worry of the tide coming in, it was a good start to the exploration. I was so excited to have Lucy and Jon down with us...this is the only picture I remembered to take. What a numpty.

The long climb to the top of the castle is very testing and I envied the two younger ones their stamina as they casually strode up to the top. Linda followed behind them at a slightly slower pace but with a vast amount of energy whilst I brought up the rear with all the grace of a broken down hack. Wheezing and gasping, with a face of purple hue, I finally arrived at the top with them.
Thank God I gave up smoking twenty years ago...I swear I would be dead now if I hadn't.
The view as usual is breathtaking and the climb was well worth it. My only dismay was that I had forgotten my English Heritage corporate card and had to pay.
On leaving, Linda drove us all to Port Isaac. Not only a favourite place of ours, but also somewhere Lucy remembers as well. We walked around the place and they both wanted to see 'Doc Martin's cottage'. This entailed another long climb but I was immune to the pain and hardship by then. I simply showed a manly upper lip. I lied...I whinged like a baby. Not very eddifying.
Back once more in the harbour a visit to the pub for a fish and chip supper plus a couple of pints of 'Tinners' soon had me up and running again.
A really good day out but sadly marred by bad news from Surrey.
Linda's mum Brenda and her friend Chris were involved in a car crash. Although the car was written off and both ladies injured, thankfully it is not life threatening. Obviously both in a state of shock with much bruising and plenty of aches and pains; Brenda has broken and cracked ribs while Chris has a broken ankle.
Much pain and discomfort to follow I fear but at least they are still with us. Thankfully Linda has been able to talk to family up country and is 'in the loop' as it were. Her mind has been put at rest that there is nothing she can do and she has accepted that. She will not be able to get up and visit or help out...and thankfully that won't be necessary. It is always the great worry when you move away from family and friends; even more so knowing that one day it will have to be dealt with.
Thankfully, Linda is off all next week due partly to the relentless pressure from her work. She will stay at home and take some much needed 'me' time in her garden. At least she can be available if things take a sudden bad turn.
On the Sunday she elected to stay in the garden and keep herself busy for the day so I took Lucy and Jon out by myself. First call was the Eden Project. It had been many years since they had been and Lucy was keen to see how it had changed.
As usual the walks under the domes was very magical and they both enjoyed it. As a small mercy, the top walkway was closed due to the strong build up of humidity up there. We couldn't go up and I have to confess to a small sigh of relief at not having to show my fear once again.
Jon managed to operate the two machines at the other building (which always half kill me when I use them) and we were able to watch the end result without me lying down on the floor gasping my lungs out.
From here we then drove down to St Ives and had a few hours spent there. It brought a lot of memories back to Lucy and I as we used to holiday down there when the kids were small. We walked right around the harbour before climbing down the steps onto the sand. Jon and I managed to leap across the stream of incoming tide and landed dry shod on the sand.
Needless to say, Lucy did the same but only got halfway. One foot has now been bathed in freezing cold sea water and she has a sopping wet shoe. Nothing daunted she laughed it off, marched into a pub, placed the shoe on a radiator, and sat down for lunch and drinks. I do admire my daughters very much. lol.
Monday I was back to work but raced around like a madman so that I could get back in time to see them before they left. I got back early enough that Linda didn't have to take them and I was able to run them up to the station.
Time is never slow enough and the train soon arrived. Saying goodbye was so hard but had to be done. I am very fortunate with both my daughters ...and with both their partners as well. All four of them are a delight and all mean much to me. It does mean that saying goodbye gets tougher every time. At least they know they can come back whenever they want too.
I still hate saying goodbye though...         


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Chapter Thirty

These are the story pieces I wrote for the Western Morning News down here. They are just little 300 word pieces for the Countryfile section. I'm quite pleased with them and have enjoyed seeing them in print. Several people have commented favourably about them and that has been nice as well.

The Slipway

Since childhood I have wanted to work at the coast. The sea side was always my safe place, my bolt hole, my refuge. Seven months ago my wife and I walked the South West Coast Path over eight weeks in the Summer and vowed to move down here sooner rather than later.

It was meant to be, as on our return my wife was head hunted for a job in Truro and so we returned.

For me too, my dearest wish came true and I got a job as a postman delivering in Portscatho.

On my second day I arrived in the early light and gazed out to sea; the waves rolled in beneath me on the beach; seagulls called overhead; and a red sky blushed down at me. I was delighted.

While alone, I decided to nip down the slipway to the toilets beyond. I then found out why its called a slipway. I slipped most inelegantly and crashed down onto the concrete.

As regards injury I was unharmed; but as regards discomfort; this was acute. I had slipped and fallen under the gushing spout of the storm drain and cold water was pouring over me.

I scrambled up quickly, and just as quickly slipped back into it again. Desperately I rolled over onto a dry bit and was able to stand up once more. Water dripped from me as I shivered in the January dawn and staggered towards the toilets.

Somehow I dried off as best I could before walking around the road back to the office.

Later as we worked the post lady I work with said nothing about it save for one comment.

Don't use the slipway as a short cut will you? It's slippery and you may fall.”

Straight faced I said I wouldn't.

_______________________________________________________________

Church Bells.

The sound of silence can be a blessing for some; a sadness for others. I come from a town were the sound of silence seemed to be welcomed by a vociferous minority. Eagerly they forced their collective will on the rest of us...and the church bells were silenced during the week.

For me, I love the sound of the church bells. After living close to our church for many years the sounds of the bells ringing out the hours and quarter hours was a comforting background to my day.

Sadly these were stopped by a small group who now; with nothing more constructive to do; have set their collective sights on stopping the 'chinooks' flying over the town.

We live on the Roseland today and I deliver the post in Portscatho and Gerrans.

To my delight I heard their church ring out its bells the other day at noon. It gave me pause as memories flooded back. I stood and counted all twelve rings and felt the same childlike satisfaction that I used to have many years ago.

Thoughts and images tumbled through my mind of my school days; visiting with my grand parents; walking with my dad and clutching his hand tightly in our busy town; and even the images of Ireland and France where the midday Angelus pealed out and called people to stop and think and perhaps pray for a moment.

In our busy world of rushing around there is a lot to be said for having a moment to simply pause and listen to the sound of silence. If only some people realised that to achieve this you need the sound of the bells to remind you.

We certainly live in an enlightened part of the world and I am glad to be part of it.

__________________________________________________________________

Seagulls

I was mugged the other day in broad daylight. Not by a disreputable member of human society, but by a villain with wings. I refer to a large herring gull. Ever the opportunist; it spotted my half a sandwich on the bonnet of my mail van; and made off with it. The sandwich I mean...not the mail van.

I was half in and out of the drivers door, chewing on the other half of my sandwich and using both hands to lift a large heavy parcel out when the thief struck. Ignoring me completely the gull pounced and was gone in a moment with a flurry of wings.

Over the years I have been attacked by gulls on several occasions; as have probably many people. They can be vicious in their dealings with people as they dive and attack in their attempts to steal your fish and chips or your pasty. I remember reading of people being hurt as the gull tears at you in its fight to steal your food.

I even remember reading of another postman who could not deliver his mail to a certain street because a nesting pair of gulls attacked anybody moving near their territory. With a beak resembling a sharp knife it is prudent to keep your distance when they turn on you.

Sky rats; flying vermin; flaming nuisance; messy devils; shoot the lot of them; absolute pest”.

They make us so angry.

And yet... when I arrive at Portscatho with the mail; when all is silent except for the whisper of the wind and the murmuring of the sea; then the cry of the gull is the most evocative sound in the world. Its cry reminds me of why I love to live here. It is timeless, and wild,...and it is wonderful. 

_________________________________________________________________ 

Wood Smoke

The sun shone the other day...but the wind was cold and the very air bitter with its chill. I walked the quiet pavement and delivered my mail, but my thoughts were far away. It had started with a hint on the wind, from the chimney pots of some of the older houses; a taste of wood smoke in the air; I was transported.

The smoke of countless fires from the houses around me was a major part of my childhood. It spoke of warmth, of safety, of comfort, and of home. Our old house was so cold; and with no central heating at all; the open fires were the only means of warmth.

Mum may have thrown coats on my bed to keep me warm under the blankets, but it was the fire in the bedroom hearth that stopped you from freezing at night.

In the evening, I would sit in front of the fire and look for castles amongst the coals. I would watch the logs shift and settle as the fire consumed them, and if the wind gusted a bit of smoke into the room, then I would smell that delightful smell of wood smoke.

It made me feel safe and secure; made me feel warm and happy; made me feel loved.

For many years coal and wood fires have been a memory of the past. My own children missed out and never saw a fire, welcoming in its hearth; mainly because in my new house there was no hearth. Smokeless areas and the convenience of cheaper, cleaner, fuel sources meant the old fireplace was out of time.

Yet, in these days of central heating with its unseen, almost artificial heat, it is good to know that some people prefer to keep themselves warm with a real fire.

__________________________________________________________________________

Honesty

I have been struck by the level of honesty that goes with living down here. As I drive my mail van through country lanes and roads it is good to see signs of a thriving rural economy all about. All through the year I have seen fresh flowers & surplus vegetables for sale outside farm entrances or cottage gates. Whatever is in season at the time is proudly displayed for all to buy.

Throughout the year I can only guess that local chickens are contentedly, yet busily, laying eggs at a prodigious rate. At every turn there seems to be a small, handmade stall containing trays and boxes of new laid goodies to tempt me. Not to be outdone are also the proud and confident jars of home produced jams and marmalades; even pots of golden honey.

There is something very satisfying about living and working amongst people who have enough respect for each other to make this economy work. There is the seller who is confident that people will pay what they owe without stealing; and the passer-by who is scrupulous enough to put the money in the box without thought of just taking.

I am not na├»ve though. A friend put out a whole laundry basket of parsnips with a sign saying ‘Please Help Yourself, Donation in pot for Help for Heroes.’ A smartly suited gent did just that; sixty large parsnips, plus the basket, away in his expensive car; no donation.

There are some in this world who will only ever take and give nothing back. The self-interested and the self-centred; they cannot be identified as they come from across the entire social spectrum of life. In a divided world; whether it is race, creed, colour, or class; in the end it all comes down to honesty.


_________________________________________________________________


The Heron.
There was a heron on the beach the other day. It surprised me a bit as I think of heron’s as an inland bird. Over the years I have grown used to seeing them standing beside rivers and lakes. I have watched them stalk carefully into the water and pause, only a sharp beady eye moving slightly as they wait for the right moment. Then a strike!!! And a luckless fish becomes a meal.

On various post rounds, I have seen whole fishponds in gardens, emptied by a single voracious heron. Folk seemed powerless to stop them.

I only ever saw a heron beaten once. An old gardener told me that a heron will not land in water. It has to land beside it and wade in. He ran a thin wire around the edge of his pond about a foot or so off the ground. This stopped the heron from moving to the edge to fish. It did work.

Then I saw the heron on the beach. Confident and unmoving, it stared rigidly into a large rock pool, waiting to strike. Suddenly, out of the early morning sun, swooped three seagulls. Like three feathered Spitfires, the gallant few hurled themselves, screaming in formation at the heron.

Startled, the now ungainly predator, flapped slowly up into the air. Although dwarfed by their adversary, the gallant few continued to swoop and dive as they harried the great bird. Screaming and crying they slowly forced the great bird off the beach. It repeatedly tried to turn back to the rock pool, but to no avail. Giving up, its powerful wings beat harder as it turned and headed back inland to safety, humiliatingly beaten.

I swear, as the three gulls zoomed back triumphant over the beach, one of them gave a victory roll.

_______________________________________________________________________

I'm not quite sure what went wrong with the printing of the words or the format but that is how they came out on the screen. 



Chapter Twenty Nine

Sorry about this but I have not been on the old blog for a while. Over a month in fact. Things have been very busy down here and lots to do. I don't seem to be writing at the moment. It's as much as I can do to bother putting an entry into my diary. I don't know why. I just can't find the enthusiasm for it at the moment.
I miss my old classes and reading groups so much. These were my biggest inspiration and without them I seem to be lagging behind. I have looked for classes and groups down here but can't seem to find any. It is only now I am not at Royal Mail at Farnham that I realise how much inspiration and ideas I picked up amongst the general banter and humour in the place.
I have tried for a couple of literary agents but nobody seems to want to know. I seem to be drifting at the moment and I don't know why. Judging by the amount of books I'm reading at the moment I think I have drifted into some form of holiday mode. The Kindle is almost worn out with overuse and I am developing 'Kindle thumb' in the right hand.
But today I have finally sat down and written a couple more 300 word pieces for the local paper. It was good to get back in harness again and do something constructive. That is a half a dozen pieces for them now and I am quite pleased with the work done. If I can put the pieces onto the blog I will do.
Anyway...back to the beginning of March and events that have taken place.
It was our fourth wedding anniversary on the 7th...Can anybody out there guess who forgot it?
WRONG...it was both of us. Things had been so busy and so hectic that it somehow slipped our minds. I was very good though and did an honourable thing.
On the day of the anniversary I was working at Portscatho. Ellie is on a two week holiday so I am the van driver for a fortnight. It's been brilliant and I am enjoying things very much. I got home full of good humour and wellbeing even though a little tired. Coming into our hallway I picked up the post and flicked through the envelopes.
There were two cards addressed to us both and I couldn't puzzle out what they were for. I opened the first envelope from my mum and pulled the card out. My heart skipped a beat when I saw the message across the front. My eyes flickered to the calendar and spotted the date..."Oh my God. I forgot. I'm going to die!!! Oh my God."
I tore open the other card and that had the same sort of message, but this time from Katrina. My mind now working overtime, the old survival instinct kicked in and I instantly knew what to do...
"Right then fool...'DON'T PANIC MR MANNERING'...Linda won't be home for three hours. Into the car; dash off to Truro; buy one card, one gift, wrapping paper; gallop back home, nobody will ever know...sorted."
It was then I saw the flashing light on the telephone indicating that someone had left a message. My first thought was that I don't have time to listen to that...but I pressed the button anyway. Linda's voice filled the room.
"Oh Mully...I don't know what to say. I just got a text wishing us Happy Anniversary. I forgot all about it. I know you would have remembered but I completely forgot. I'm so sorry." She had rung four hours ago.
This is when the devil gets behind you; climbs on your shoulder; and whispers in your left ear.
"She forgot...she thinks you remembered...brownie points for you when you get the card and stuff...you can profit from this for weeks...you're a very lucky boy...why don't you... AARRGGHH.
Thats the noise the devil makes when you punch him on the nose and he flies out of the window.
I grabbed the phone and dialled Linda straight away. She must have been feeling bad all that time.
She picked the phone up and I barely gave her time to answer before I blurted down it...
"I forgot all about it as well."
I explained about the cards arriving and the sudden shock of realisation creeping in. I even explained what I had intended doing before I spotted her message. I think Linda guessed then what I could have done after hearing her message but didn't because she hinted at it.
We both knew I wouldn't have done that anymore than Linda would have.
That was our best anniversary so far...