Monday, 28 May 2012

Chapter Thirty Nine

Well, this has been an 'up and down' sort of week and no mistake; in more ways than one as well. Let me get my sad bit of news told first.
I received a tearful phonecall on Wednesday 23rd May from Fiona to inform me that her grandfather had died. Great credit to her as well, for a difficult phonecall. He had died peacefully and at a good age as well, but as ever, it is hard to lose someone you love.
I admired and respected Bill immensely and will always be pleased that I knew him.
His opening comment to Anne on seeing me for the first time; this was in 1971; was clear and to the point.
         "If he was my son he'd have a bleedin' hair cut."
The grin on his face as he said it took the sting out of the words though and we became friends. He was always hard working and always busy. Whether at work or around the house; Bill turned his hand to anything; he was brilliant.
His younger days had been spent in the army, both as a soldier and later as a paratrooper. His stories of some of his jumps would make your hair curl and I shall save those for another time. I used to chat to him for hours and try and draw stories out of him. Sometimes he would say nothing; other times he would chat for hours.
A tough man; a hard man; Bill was always both strong and dependable. His other side came out as well though and he could be a very caring and gentle person who always put others first, especially his family.
Like his children and grand children; I adored him and I shall miss him. He was a lovely man and has earned his rest.
Correspondingly for me, this week has been a real high with more to follow. On Monday I found myself heading hotfoot to St Mawes to learn one of the duties out there. This is a most lovely seaside town and sits comfortably at the seaward end of the Roseland opposite Falmouth.
I have been there before when I have dropped the mail off some mornings, but never on a delivery.
The job I got given is another perfect example of 'up and down'. One road is so steep I swear you need piton's and a good rope just to climb it. I think there is an old St Bernard dog halfway up with a brandy barrel at its throat; just in case you get lost. The last house at the summit has a flag flying from it and I believe an old 'sherpa' from the himalaya's lives there. He uses the road as a training aid for budding sherpa's before they get sipped back to the more gentle lower slopes of Everest.
It really is a fantastic duty though. I deliver all along the seafront, and all the little side streets and footpaths leading off. It is only then that I launch my daily expedition to the roof of the world to deliver the bit up there. The views are awesome.
A great stopping off point for yachts and boats of all types, it is a wonderful landscape to work in.
Needless to say, I had to go into it 'blind' and find my own way around the place. The two guys I work with have been fantastic and their help made it a lot easier than it otherwise could have been. I owe a great dept of thanks as well to all the people were I made mistakes.
Each of them has been kindness itself. They have pointed me in the right direction; covered up for me; helped out; and generally been very decent.
The whole of this last week has seen some glorious weather and it has been a treat walking the streets. I am turning a decent weatherbeaten, tanned colour and my leg muscles have toughened up as well. Even my waist has shrunk by a good couple of inches or so and I'm breathing a lot better. I informed Linda that I am taking on the physique of a 'sun bronzed Greek god'; she snorted and aimed a bucket of water at me. Once again I am reminded of how jealousy is a terrible thing.
The week at work had gone very well; I even got overtime; so I was happy to agree with Linda to finishing off the 'Saints Way'...It didn't go as planned. You can probably guess whose fault that was.
Linda worked for an hour at the farm on Sunday morning before we set off with the cars. We adopted our time honoured method of doing trail walks. We parked one car at the finish of the trail, Fowey, and then both set off in the other car to were-ever we were starting from; in this case, 'Helman Tor'. We then walk to the further car at Fowey which we then drive back to the other car at Helman Tor; then we bring both cars home.
I grant you the carbon footprint takes a caning, and it can cost a lot in fuel, but it works. In fact it works very well. So much so that there is really only one thing that can go wrong...and it did.
We had a brilliant walk in perfect weather and ten miles had slipped past us beautifully. We were walking down the last half mile into Fowey when it happened. I suddenly got a nagging doubt, a twist of fear that ate into my soul, a loose feeling in my stomach as a thought finally hammered its way into my brain.
I guess this thought had been hammering on my skull for several hours before it finally gained entry. This was the thought that makes you go pale because you always, always check at the start of the walk...and I knew I had forgotten too.
I stopped dead!!
"Oh no!, Oh no!, Oh no!."
I do a good line in panic don't I. It doesn't say much, but you know its serious. Linda knew it was serious becasuse I kept repeating it as I tore my bag off my back and began frantically searching inside it. Then I tipped the bag upside down and hurled everything on the floor. This was the moment when I leapt up and began vainly searching my pockets in my shorts; before I then searched again in the pockets in my rucksack.
The car we were walking to was mine. It was now barely half a mile away. The car we were walking from was Linda's. That was a shade under eleven miles away. The car keys to my car, barely half a mile away, I had left on the floor of Linda's car...AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!
Linda was very good and just sighed quietly for a moment. All she said was, "Well done Mully". I'd have felt better if she'd picked up a rock and hit me over the head with it.
Eight phonecalls later I finally found a taxi that could be with us in just under an hour. He didn't wish to drive up onto the Tor but agreed to drop us off in the nearest village to it, (two miles). It cost me £15 for the taxi; a further £15 for drinks and a bite in the little pub; and made us three hours late getting home.
There was a little plus though.
 On Helman Tor, (a most stunning location), there are many huge granite boulders. One of these is called 'Logans Rock'. It weighs in at just over three tons; about the weight of an old army lorry. It is balanced in such a way that if you climb on it...you can make it wobble. We found it.
Now I have a small idea of what it must be like in an earthquake. What should be solid and dependable, wobbles and sways under your feet. It can be scary, but also exhilerating. You know that if it should ever topple, you will be crushed. They say it has been like this for hundreds of years; they say the chance of it going is remote; but there is still that little frisson of excitement as you step out on it.
Once I get the photo's off Linda I shall post them as well.
 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Chapter Thirty Eight

It all started with the battery. My car developed a fault on Sunday. Actually, that's probably a falsehood. My car has been developing a fault for weeks. When it finally gave up the ghost on Sunday, it had developed another fault. I don't think it could cope. It all started with the battery...and it finished with the thermostat.
For some time now I have been having little niggardly problems with my car not starting. Invariably the battery has been flat. Usually I knew why. Three times I left the lights on. Not my fault!!!the little beeping sound that goes off and tells you your lights are still on... has stopped working.
Also; because there is never any need to lock your car up around here...I keep forgetting to close the door up tight.
The first time I was let down was at home. I was just leaving for work. Turned the key; not a sound at all. No clicks; no whirring; no anything. So I tried to bump start it down the hill...nothing happened. I ran back home, plugged in my extension lead and then I ran back, paying out the lead to the car. Then I had to run back to the house and run back to the car with my battery charger.
One hundred yards of cable lying on the road; one Heath Robinson affair on the ground in front of the car; no light on the battery charger. I ran back...no I didn't...I staggered back to the house and switched the plug on, then I wheezed my way back to the car.
Then I made my first mistake...
I decided to use the battery charger as a 'powered jump starter'. I leapt into the car, turned the ignition key, and blew the fuse out of the said, now useless, battery charger.
At this point I leapt up and down like an idiot for a good thirty seconds; ran around in a circle; and shouted at the heavens for a 'little bit of bloody help here please'.
God very kindly heard me and sent an 'angel of mercy' along in the guise of a frail octogenarian with a nice car and a set of jump leads. In minutes she was on her way and my car was sitting there with the engine running.
I then galloped back to the house clutching all the gear I had brought down and winding up like fury just under one hundred yards of wire. I then dashed back to the car and drove off to work; stopping on the way to carefully unwind and take my door key off the ignition key bunch so I could nip in, lock the house up, all without switching the engine off.
Since then, the battery and I have maintained an uneasy truce, which I might add, it has broken on several more occasions.
My expertise with anything to do with cars is as legendary as is my efforts in being practicable...basically its absolutely zero!!!
On that understanding I did what I usually do and ignored it. It always got sorted out in the end so I buried my head in the sand. This state of affairs lasted until last Sunday.
We decided to go and finish off 'The Saints Way' trail. This of course meant we would need both cars; one at the finish of the walk and one at the start. Trust me, it works very well. Linda and I carried out our bags; leapt into our cars; turned both keys; only Linda's started. Then I noticed I had left the passenger door ajar the night before.
Linda shook her head and sighed; then she told me I needed a new battery (she's told me that several times now); and then she jump started my car. Seven miles up the road, a red flashing light came on, on the dashboard and the 'temperature guage needle' passed out and lay prostrate pointing at 100. Steam came out from the bonnet so I pulled over.
Linda jumped out of her car and rushed over as I lifted the bonnet lid. I don't know why the blood always drains from her face when I lift up the bonnet. She goes like that when I switch on my electric drill as well...very odd.
I covered my hand in a large cloth and unscrewed the top off the radiator. It was quite amazing how far that water went when I did that. Linda looked even paler as I staggered out from the great cloud of steam and convinced her I was fine. I couldn't see her too clearly as my glasses had fogged up. It didn't matter though as I could hear her quite easily. She seemed a little cross I think.
Anyway, she did go back to the shop for a two litre bottle of water and I was able to put that in. The radiator took about an egg cupfull of water and then it was full. I did think that was odd but still...heigh ho.
Then it wouldn't start again and Linda had to jump it again.
A mile up the road the needle had reached 100 again...so I pulled over again.
Up went the bonnet again; Linda's face paled once more; and this time I told her about a trick I had seen once. I told her I had seen people squeezing the water hoses in the engine; I told her I didn't know why they did it; and I also told her it might work. With that, I plunged my hand in the engine and squeezed the top hose firmly.
The resulting scream could be heard fourteen miles away and probably featured on the local news station that evening. I leapt up and away from the bonnet of the car and I swear I saw the vastness and darkness of outer space before I landed. At all times, I was flapping my right hand like a demented bird wing as I vainly tried to cool the wretched thing down.
"Don't tell me you put your hand onto a hose containing boiling water Mully and found it a bit hot? You astonish me!!"
You will have guessed that Linda does a nice line in sarcasm.
Some years ago I had done something similar when a car exhaust fell off the vehicle in front of me. I got off my pushbike to pick the exhaust pipe up, and put it out of harms way on the side of the road. With no more thought I simply bent down and picked the pipe up. The sound of sizzling meat; the smell of scorched flesh; the pain; I was in bandages for a week.
The incident with the hose brought it all back to me. Lovely.
At this point Linda called the Automobile Association and made me beg for help. My tears of pain and the anguish in my plea resulted in a very nice AA mechanic; complete with a very smart van with flashing lights and everything; arriving in just under fifty minutes.
He gave me a lolly to suck and sat me on the side of the road. As he obviously thought of Linda as the only 'grown-up' present, he took her to one side and she explained what was wrong. I was only allowed near the vehicle to pay for the parts he installed. One brand new battery later the car roared into life. He took out the thermostat and left it on the seat of the car. With it was a note for me to hand in to a garage.
It said something about the thermostat housing being broken and that was all that needed replacing. I think it also said something about 'pay no notice of anything that the idiot bearing this note tells you. Do not let him touch anything either'.
Strangely, that part looked just like Linda's hand writing   

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Chapter Thirty Seven

Day off today (Friday 11-05-12) and Grahame and Julie are down for the weekend. Really looking forward to seeing them again. I have missed my brother a lot. I met up with them both at the Eden Project. Julie has been down to Cornwall before as a little girl but Grahame has never been in the county in his life. It seemed a good place to start.
All pleased to see each other and there was much catching up to do as we walked around the site. Although chilly outside the Equatorial rainforest section soon brings the warmth back to your bones. We had a good mooch about and saw everything that was on offer...we even had lunch...before setting off back to my house.
Both Grahame and Julie loved it and said how lucky we were to have found it. They took great delight in making friends with the two pheasants, Percy and Pippa, who seem to have moved into the garden. They chose the right time to come down to Cornwall as well, because the weather picked up throughout the day and it became very warm and sunny.
Once Linda got home from work we all set off to Carne Beach for a good walk. The tide was only just starting to come in and we made the most of our walk. With most holiday makers away at present, Cornwall is fairly quiet and peaceful; we had the beach virtually to ourselves.
From here we drove them over to Portscatho and had a wonderful dinner in the Royal Standard. A good end to the first day.
Saturday, Grahjame volunteered to come with me and help out on the round. His help was invaluable as we walked around together and we shaved a good 45 minutes off the delivery time. It meant we could get home and head off out a little quicker.
We took them both down to St Micheals Mount but found it is closed on a Saturday. An unusual day to close in the scheme of things but it is not without common sense. All National Trust places must shut at least one day a week. They chose Saturday because that is 'holiday changeover day'. This was the day they always got the least amount of visitors...so they close it.
Still, we had a drink and a sandwich at the pub opposite the causeway as we waited for the tide to creep out a little more, and then we walked across to the island itself. We were able to take a walk around the harbour and the little village there and we all enjoyed ourselves.
From there we then drove across to St Erth and picked up the little train into St Ives. The sun shone and the sea sparkled as we chugged into the little station. It is just a short walk from the station down to the harbour and the tide was well on its way out by then, so we walked down onto the beach.
There is no better view of St Ives than from the sandy floor of the harbour. We made our way across and climbed the old stone steps on the arm of the harbour beneath the lighthouse. It is my favourite place in the whole of Cornwall, (and Looe as well) and I know it made a deep impression on Grahame and Julie.
We walked them around the far side of the town and up onto the Island with its little church on the top. It really was a lovely day and the views were amazing.
All to soon it was time to leave and we drove back to Tregony. We have never gone into our other local pub so we thought we would go there with Grahame and Julie to try it out. The pub in our village is the Kings Head...the pub in Tregony is the Kings Arms. I suspect there may well be a pub somewhere called the Kings Legs, but I haven't found it yet. I'm not even sure if it is the same king!!!
However, the food was superb and we enjoyed the meal.
Sunday dawned bright and sunny and the temperature was definitely hot. Linda went to her farm today to do her hours volunteering and took Julie with her. While they were feeding animals and mucking out, Grahame and I cooked breakfast.
A full English champagne breakfast, sitting out in the garden, seemed the order of the day and this we did. We looked like the squire and his family sitting out there, but it was a good laugh. It also helps you realise sometimes just how lucky you are.
 Grahame and Julie had to pack up then to head for home. We had decided to go to the Lost Gardens of Heligan together and say goodbye from there. This is part of the gardens showing the bee boles.


We must have spent a good five hours walking around the place and Linda was in her element. Camera clicking, she missed nothing on her way around the place. In fact we enjoyed it so much that Linda and I joined the Friends of Heligan so that we can visit the place regularly. One of the bonuses of that is that you can get in an hour earlier than anyone else and take your photos before to many people arrive. It was a lovely day and we all enjoyed it; I think we were all sorry when it ended.
We decided on eating dinner before we said goodbye so drove to the pub at Polgooth for a meal. While there we listened to the amazing end to the football season when City beat United to the top with the last kick of the match. Very exciting and City deserved their success even if I wasn't happy about it. Grahame's Arsenal came third so he was happy anyway.
The meal was very good and we ate that outside as well. Sadly we then really had to say goodbye and we both headed home...but in different directions. Grahame and Julie east; Linda and I west.
I am on holiday for a week now and unfortunately Linda could not get the time off. It is a year to the day that we started our walk around the coast path.Yesterday was the 14th, which was the day we travelled down to Minehead and todayis the 15th, the day we started walking.
What an awful lot has happened in one small year 

Chapter Thirty Six

The next couple of weeks kind of sailed by with both of us working hard at home and at work. Work for Linda has improved hugely and she is a lot more happier now. Her stress levels reduced as did her workload and at last things have become a bit more manageable. She has less problems in the office now and is able to do her work as she would like without interference.
I'm the one struggling unfortunately. I have reverted back to my ten hour week and I really don't like it. It is not for me at all. I have applied for various posts in Royal Mail and been turned down for the lot. The reason given that they have somebody with similar hours who needs the job over me. However I have been encouraged by the manager to keep trying.
Finally, a job was pointed out to me that nobody wants...so I put in for it. Two months later I still hadn't been replied too so I wrote again and asked what was happening. It turns out I can't have it because they cannot convert my ten hours into forty. Not enough hours in the office budget aparently.
Why keep encouraging me to apply for jobs if I have no chance of getting one anyway...I smell a rat.
Then I got asked to do the driving job at Portscatho for a week. I accepted delightedly and started work. Three days later I had a slight accident and knocked the wing mirror off...I've been suspended from driving ever since...from immediate effect. The bloke they asked to take over from me is the chap who wrote the entire van off just eight months ago...I smell a rat.
All was sweetened by my manager who called me in a few days later. She asked me if I felt I could do some more of the village on Grampound Road delivery;in effect; double the round. I said I could and could cover the entire village in four hours. This seemed acceptable and I was told this state of affairs would start fairly soon.
However, when I spoke to my workmate Tania, she told me they were talking of putting in just an extra hour a day instead of two. She thought they mat bump it up to an hour and a half extra but no more. Then I spoke to my other workmate Reg, who told me they had offered him the job...I smell a rat.
At the moment I don't know were life is taking me or what is happening as regards Royal Mail. The company I am most loyal to; the company I am happiest with; the company I love the most; seems determined to keep me down. I shall see were all this leads before looking for another job.
The weather has not been so good for the last few weeks and there have been record rainfalls over most of the country. Cornwall has been no exception and it has both suffered and benefitted from the rain. It may be damaging the tourism...but its taken us out of drought status.
I met a very nice bloke at work, Jim, who told me about his wife's grandad, who wrote a series of Cornwall Walking books. Linda and I managed to buy all three and we have decided to do all the walks in them as a project for the year.
The first one was very close to home and started at Tregony. A lovely walk, although muddy, with a beautiful church halfway around to visit. A great start to the books which encouraged us to attempt the biggest of the walks which is the 'Saints Way.
This walk goes from Padstow on the north coast all the way south to Fowey. It goes via a place called Helman Tor. We thought we would do it over three days and completed the first two days last weekend. There is no better way of seeing places than by walking around the back lanes and footpaths.
The walk took us through a very impressive wind farm with its huge windmills turning. We can't fathom why people kick up such a fuss over them because we think they are wonderful. Later we were lucky enough to get close to a village when they performed a recital on the church bells. It was simply beautiful.
Helman Tor had a charm all of its own as well. A large Tor that shows signs of being an Iron Age fort at some time. There is a stone up there; all three tons of it; which we couldn't find. It teeter's when you walk on it. We clambered across all sorts of stones but nothing moved. We start the finish of our walk from there next time and so we are determined to find the wretched thing then. I felt sure it was this one but nothing moved apart from me.

Back on my delivery again this week at Grampound Road when Tania stopped coming out. It turns out that she too has been taken off driving. It seems she damaged her vehicle on a lump of granite rock. When will Royal Mail learn that accidents will happen all the while the pressure is on the staff to finish within time??  

Chapter Thirty Five

15th April.
Therese has once again booked the lovely, huge cottage at Winsford in Somerset.  It's called Thorn Cottage and sits right in the middle of the village. She, Brendan, and Becky arrived yesterday with Eliza and managed to get settled in before we arrived. We had a good journey up and arrived with the sunshine just about lunchtime. Perfectly timed I thought as Therese was just ready to serve up the food.
In no time at all it was as if we had never left there from last time. We headed off to Minehead for a look around and to give Eliza a run on the beach. Although the sun was shining the wind was bitterly cold.
Minehead is were the South West Coast Path starts from, so we walked along the esplanade to show everyone the statue is. This is a photograph taken last year on the first day of our walk. It shows Linda standing beside the two big hands holding a map
Beneath here is the picture of mum just before she set off as well. I thought she meant she wanted to set off and do the walk herself...but it turned out she wanted to set off back to the car. We thought she looked great in this picture though; very well and very happy. Good to see. 

The holiday passed all to quickly, although we had great fun on it. We had decided from the very beginning that we should all do our own thing and if they matched up, we would do it together. Linda and I had planned a couple of walks for ourselves that we wanted to do. We have to get back into shape for our main holiday walk of the year. That's less than five months away.
We chose a walk that took us across part of Exmoor towards Tarr Steps. Needless to say...we got lost twice. A lovely walk though and we enjoyed it very much. The common is as wild and ancient a landscape as you would imagine, with its exmoor ponies and prehistoric sites. Very quickly, you can forget the 21st Century and find yourself transported back to another age.  
Tarr steps looks very similar to the old prehistoric bridges we are all familiar with. Huge slabs of flat stone resting on equally huge upright stones. Beside it is a ford but you could only drive a 4x4 through that.
There was a very nice pub there though and we made use of that as a pit stop. It was after that we got lost; I believe the drink had nothing to do with it; but it made for a longer walk. Thank God for good maps and road signs. We got back eventually...didn't even argue much over getting lost either.
A couple of days of wet weather brought us back up on the moor in the car as Linda and I wanted to go to Dulverton. Incredible up there after all that rain. Every path we had walked had now turned into a stream.
The river in Dulverton was in full spate and you could see how easily it must have flooded back in 1952 when the tragedy of Lynmouth unfolded. A pretty little town though with a beautiful church in it.
The connection with Lynmouth reminded me of how close it was to where we were staying and so the following day we all headed off there for a visit. We chose to park up in Lynton and use the little cliff train to go up and down. Linda and I used it on our walk last year and its great fun.
It gives you a good overview of Lynmouth as you come down. We all went into the exhibition centre set up after the disaster and found it very poignant. Very interesting though and a good reminder of how much damage nature can do to the unwary.
Linda's birthday on Friday and there was prezzies and cards all around. She even got given a special hat from Therese. My present to her was dinner that evening for all of us at the local hotel. Linda and I worked up an appetite by going on a five mile walk around the village. Great fun actually and we saw a lot as we walked. The weather stayed glorious until we stopped for a lunch break. One hail storm later the sun came out and you would never have known it had happened.
Dinner was a huge success and the meal superb.
Sadly, another holiday has now shot by and it is time for goodbyes and farewells. It's been good fun this week and I've enjoyed myself. Even something as simple as chopping logs for the fire was fun. Once again the company has been what made the week. All to soon it was time to leave and we headed home. Therese, mum, Brendan, and Eliza went off in one car and Linda and I took Becky with us in the other. She had to get home quickly for an engagement so we took her to catch the train from Taunton.
We really had a good time and now we are back home, just the two of us.  

Chapter Thirtyfour

11th April
I am now the proud possessor of the correct glasses. Finally I managed to get the order right and have got the correct ones. At least I can wear these for work. I chose not to have varifocal glasses when I got my last lot and found I couldn't throw my round off at work. What an idiot. More expense to replace my new glasses with even newer glasses. All sorted now anyway and I'm off to pick mum up from St Austell station.
The train pulled in and mum had somehow managed to get enough help from those about her to get herself and her bags off and onto the platform. She looked in good spirits and enjoyed the trip down. We had all been worried at whether she would cope but she had no problems.
I got her home and within moments it was if she had never left. One cup of tea later and she was up for a trip around Portscatho and St Mawes to see were I work. The weather is perfect today so we got a lot done. We visited all the places I work in and it gave mum a taste of my working day at present.
When we got home Linda had just pulled up as well. I'm not sure what happened next but in no time at all we were all working out in the garden. I was mowing the lawn as usual and even mum cleared a flower bed of some weeds. Nice to make her earn her keep.
The following day, Linda and I were both at work while mum was at home on her own. She said she was happy to just be there and potter about so that was fine.
Woody and Fiona came down to Cornwall today for a lightening trip. Woody had a meeting in Truro so brought Fiona with him. Once the meeting was over, they drove out to Portscatho and met me at the pub. It was great to see them both and we had lunch and a drink at the pub before heading home to mum.
Thats all my family been to the house now except for Grahame. He and Julie will be down in another month and we're looking forward to that.
Fiona and Woody loved the house and sat chatting and drinking tea with us as the afternoon raced by. All to soon it was time for them to leave and we had to say goodbye. Ever so pleased they could get down here though and at least they've seen were we live.
The following day after work I took mum out and about in the car. Exciting stuff all around as the first port of call was the dump at St Austell. We then drove up past the 'pyramid' and down towards Truro. Mum is still gets a little tired with to much walking so we just drove around and looked at the sights. After that, I took her up to Threemilestone and showed her were Linda works.
To finish the day off we then drove down to Trelissick Gardens for tea. A beautiful gardens to walk around, but a bit cold for stepping out today, so the cafe sufficed. Hopefully mum will be back again in the summer and I can take her around the garden then.
One scrummy tea later and we drove down the road to go home on the King Harry Ferry. We are getting used to using the ferries when travelling around down here, but the novelty has still not worn off. Mum thought it was brilliant.
Saturday was my last day at regular work at Portscatho for the forseeable future. I cannot put into words how happy I have been working there. It may have only been for three months but I have lived my dream...and I loved it.
I could not afford to hang around as I had to get home quickly to get ready for our meeting.The South West Coast Path Association had its AGM in Newquay this year and we decided to go along. We were presented with our certificate for completing the walk last year. It was nice to have mum there with us to share the moment. Great fun.
The weather is not proving so good at the moment so we didn't hang around for long afterwards. We drove over to Carnon Downs for dinner, before heading home via the ferry to start packing. We're on holiday tomorrow.
    

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Chapter Thirty three

6th April
Katrina and Kevin have come down to Cornwall with baby Oscar to spend Easter with us. Oscar is a delight and was certainly very happy to be down here with his Grandma and Grandpa. He has definitely grown since we saw him last; a real little boy now.
The last few weeks have been busy but the weather has been glorious, a real sense of summer. So much so that there is now a hosepipe ban in parts of Britain...including the South East. We in the South West are luckier and we are under no restrictions as yet. We also have the village well outside our front door and that is keeping us going.
We paid a flying visit up country at the end of March for a two day stopover. Its all been happening up there recently and we wanted to just look in and catch up. The perfect opportunity arose with Grahame and Julies joint 50th birthday party.
Linda and I drove up on the Friday afternoon and settled in to a travelodge in Camberley. That evening we went to Fiona and Woody's place for a real first time treat. Fiona had passed her driving test a few weeks ago and Woody immediately got her insured to drive his car.
It was with great pride and delight that I placed Linda in the rear seat of it and climbed into the front passenger seat so that Fiona could drive us all out to a local pub for dinner. Her confidence in driving showed and we arrived safely at The Jolly Farmer at Binstead for our meal.
Woody had gone somewhere else so it was only the three of us. We arranged to meet him at their home later on. We had a lovely meal and chatted about this and that for ages. It was a defining moment for me...I'm beginning to feel more like my own dad every day now...as old that is.
Where did those years go so quickly that my daughter drives me to the pub for a meal?
It was brilliant.
Then, later on, I made a right idiot of myself. We got back to Fionas... and Woody wasn't there. We had to go, and as we got into our car the resulting conversation took place.
Its 2230 in the evening.
Me----"Will Woody be back soon do you think?"
Fiona----"I don't know. I'll walk up through town and see if I can find him."
Me----"What!!!! Its late at night. You can't walk around the streets on your own. Shall I come with you?"
(I did the same thing on Waterloo Station when Jon went off and left Lucy to catch the train home alone...same results too.)
It doesn't take a genius to imagine the stunned comments from both Fiona and Linda. As soon as I had spoken I thought how stupid I had been to say it in the first place...but I still said it.
Never mind 'growing up'... 'growing older' is just as difficult.
Woody turned up at this point and both Fiona and Linda hastened to tell him what I had said; he gave me a pitying look and asked me had I been joking although he knew I hadn't been. My face coloured I know that much.
All three looked at me as I got back into the car with that look that says,
"Stupid old fool, bless'im."
I brazened it out and and waved as we left. At least it was smiles all around. As I slid back down into my seat one thought did surface though and I had a quiet grin.
"Well at least Woody got back before she wandered off on her own so that was a result."

Its very tough being a Dad with daughters...so unless you are...don't comment. LOL.

The following day was the birthday meal and it was a great success. Good food, good wine, and good company. About sixty of us at the restaurant which made for a convivial meal and a good laugh. For entertainment a singer had been hired. He was excellent and made the meal a success. There was also a turn from Christopher as well and he showed us all a taste of the success he will one day become.
All to soon it was over and we headed back to the hotel, via Therese and the kids. It was good to see them and catch up. We will be on holiday down in Somerset with them in a fortnight so we managed to sort out a few things before the event.
Sunday we spent the morning at Linda's mums. We wanted to catch up with her and Chris and make sure they were both OK. Although both are still sore and in pain with their injuries they both seemed in good spirits. It was nice to catch up with them both. Hopefully we shall see them at our place one of these days. We had to dash by lunchtime though. Lots to do.

This brings me back to Katrina and family.
Sadly the weather has changed and is becoming colder and wetter than it has been of late. It stayed dry long enough to take them for a walk and a meal around Mevgissey. The tides are extremely high and extremely low at present so things look quite dramatic while we are out.
Kevin and I walked down to Sett Bridge this evening to see the high tide washing in. A large part of the road below our house was full of water and the saltings were covered as well. Even down at the river the water is almost up to the top of the bridge arch. Very exciting and incredible to look at.
We rushed home after that as it was getting colder and wetter while we were out. It didn't seem to bother two teenagers however, who dashed along the road to a car wearing nothing but their underwear. They had been swimming in the creek would you believe.
Oscar has found my little chair that my grandad bought for me 57 years ago. He bought two; one for me, and one for my cousin Denise; we both still have them. Both my daughters used it when they were little and it was great to see it getting some more usage again. I'd forgotten that it would be useful for my grandchildren until Oscar reminded me.

 
Normally I have three teddies sitting in this. Two of them are as old and as fragile as I am so I had hidden them away. I just left the chair as it was and was delighted when he decided to make it his own.
On Easter Monday we all went to the fete at Portscatho. By now the wet weather was in with a vengeance and it was pouring down. What a contrast in the last month...blistering sunshine and now torrential rain.
The fete was good as was the market. They were selling original Noddy books but the price was a little out of my league. Perhaps next time. We had a good time though and enjoyed ourselves. All to soon however it was time for them all to head back up country. It wont be long though as they are back down here on a fortnights holiday later on in the year.
It will be good to see them.  

Chapter Thirty two

24th March.
I finished work in good time today and Linda and I headed up to Exeter for the weekend. Tomorrow is a big day for Linda as she is doing her parachute jump for the Alzheimers Society. She has raised just over £500-00 and is funding her jump herself.
We had hoped she would be jumping with the rest of the group tomorrow from the Tesco people but due to a mix up...they all jump in the afternoon and Linda jumps in the morning. Booze-up and brewery springs to mind.
A glorious day in Exeter so we parked up near the Quay and went for a little walk. All very nice down there and we enjoyed it very much. They've turned this part of the city into a wonderful amenity and it seems to be very popular. We like it anyway.
Wandering through there and up into the city we soon found ourselves in the cathedral precincts. This must have been were the other half of the city occupants had gone because it was very busy here as well. Remember that if you should come down this way. Half the city camps out at the Quay, the other half camps out at the Cathedral. I imagine the rest of the city is a ghost town with bits of tumbleweed blowing through it.
We left after coffee on the lawn and headed up to the Holiday Inn past Heavitree. I knew a shortcut and took Linda that way. All went well until I made one tiny mistake. I went left instead of right, so chose to keep going as I could take the next right later on.
Twenty minutes later we seemed to be on a side road to Somerset and the city was rapidly dwindling behind us. Eventually I spotted a sign indicating the M5 and we were soon on our way back to civilisation. My shortcut, maybe NOT surprisingly, did not prove to be very good. It took us just under 50 minutes to get were we wanted and we covered about an extra thirty miles. It should have been a 10 minute drive with a distance of about four miles. I never heard the end of it.
Roxanne and Stephen had come down from Surrey to provide some much needed moral support to Linda. They were waiting for us at the hotel and we all enjoyed a good catch up together. Much gossiping later and following a really nice meal at the 'Barn Owl', exhaustion took over and we headed for our beds.
Up with the lark, we had washed, got dressed, breakfasted, checked out, and driven to Dunkeswell airfield by 08-00 on Sunday morning. This was made even more remarkable as the clocks had gone forward that night and we had already lost an hours sleep as it was.
Being cowardly in the extreme, there was absolutely no way in the world that I was going to jump out of any aeroplane...I wasn't even going to go up in the wretched thing...but I had agreed to hold Linda's coat and take some photographs. This is a picture of her standing in front of the 'plane...notice the mechanic in the background working on it.  
           


Linda seemed totally unfazed by the mechanic and happily disappeared to get ready for the jump. I staggered off and unhappily stayed in the toilet for ten minutes. Imagination can be a trial sometimes and mine was working overtime. Returning I found Linda all kitted out and ready to join the queue...she was still smiling.


She not only seemed quite happy and smiling as she waited in the queue, she was more than happy when she finally put that ridiculous helmet on and climbed into the plane itself. I would have been catatonic by now and probably on my second heart attack if it had been me, however Linda is made of sterner stuff and was grinning as she waited for takeoff.


They told us the plane was very fast and they were correct. One frantic wave later the blessed thing was roaring up into the sky and rapidly becoming a small cross shaped dot in a perfect blue sky. Higher and higher it circled before the first two leapt out. It then climbed up towards 10,000 feet and Linda and her partner launched themselves into the ether.
This would have been the point when, if it had been me, my poor overtaxed and over strained heart would have given up completely. Instead of two people coming down in tandem and waving to the crowd as Linda did, it would have been one person and one corpse...and I definetely wouldn't have been waving.

Slowly the pair of them got closer to the ground and then it all picked up speed and they were safely down and gathering the parachute up. I let out a breath now which almost blew the fence over. I don't think I had breathed since she took off twenty minutes before. Within a short while the bus bringing them all back pulled up and they all got out.
Linda as you can see looked completely unruffled by the whole thing and she was still smiling. I could not have been more proud of her as I knew this jump was something I could never do. She raised awareness of the Alzheimers Society to a lot of people through this jump and cash besides. To this day I am so sorry that her efforts were never offically acknowledged or supported by most of her colleagues...or the society itself. She was at a meeting a week later and the Tesco involvement was mentioned...but never a word to Linda either of thanks or praise.
Having got that off my chest, I know that those of us who care about her were very proud of her and think she is very special. I am also delighted to say she has agreed never to jump out of another plane again. Thank God for that say I.



We left the airfield and drove on down to East Budleigh. I wanted Roxanne to see the place and that was all the excuse I needed. If I could have been brought up here as a child I would have been a very happy lad. A quintessential Devon village and home to my English family, I grew up loving the place. I always feel safe here; I always feel happy here; and I always feel as if I belong here.

The white painted cottage on the left used to belong to my great grandparents on my mothers side; her dad's parents. Its the one with the white painted door and black door knocker. I visited as a child and loved it in there . I brought Fiona and Lucy here many times when they were young. Linda and I have also been down several times.

We were last down for Rememberance Sunday two years ago to honour my great grandfather. He was killed in 1917 at Passchendaele. These two photos come from that visit. My great grandfather was John Hill.


           
We had a little walk in the village before heading off to Budleigh Salterton for the rest of the day. All too quickly it was over and we had to return home. It still seems strange to us when we come home, and even more so today. When we got to the A30, Roxanne and Stephen turned right; we turned left. It still takes a bit of getting used too.