Monday, 10 September 2007

Summer holiday? I've come home for a rest!

Hello there. I'm back! So, you didn't notice I'd been anywhere? Well, I have, and now here I am sitting in my office in the middle of the night listening to him indoors snoring. It's not conducive to a good night's sleep, listening to that racket, so I thought I'd write my blog and tell you about our month away in Cornwall.
We set off to drive to Cornwall to the sound of furious yowling from the cat who was firmly locked in his travelling basket. We've been prepared for this ever since the first time we took him for such a long journey by car, and we know that he will shut up once we get to Worthing, which is about an hour away. Whether he goes quiet because he's bored, or because he's got a sore throat, or even because he realises there's no escape from the hated basket until we arrive at our destination is unknown to us. All we do know is a huge sense of relief when he packs it in and goes to sleep. We have also learned that he hates us being overtaken by lorries or noisy motorbikes, and absolutely detests him indoor taking corners too sharply. This proves a problem when we drive through Chichester, Worthing and Bournemouth, for the powers that be in those towns seem to have a fetish for roundabouts, and him indoors can't resist pretending to be a racing driver at each and every one of them.
Cornwall is ablaze with sunshine, the garden is overgrown and him indoors has a glint in his eye as he checks his chain-saw. Oh, no - it seems the lumberjack fetish has struck again. What is it about men and machinery? The cat is just delighted to have arrived, and heads straight for the place where his bowl is - well it would be - but we haven't unpacked the car yet! To sharp howls of anguish, we swiftly attend to his needs. Two seconds later the plate is empty and he's gone exploring. How's that for gratitude. Not many cats have a second home in Cornwall for goodness sake! Doesn't he realise how privileged he is?
As the sun is shining I've dared to put on shorts - yes, I do have the legs, but the rear-end is a little suspect, so I add a long t-shirt. Gardening is a great therapy and I soon get stuck in, weeding and hoeing and generally fighting the ivy and tangled creepers that seem to insist upon strangling anything that's attractive in the flowerbeds. Him indoors has revved up his chain-saw and has set about a massacre of the nearby hedge. He's planning to replace it with a fence, but I don't think our neighbours are going to be too delighted to have their sunny days shredded by the noise he's making.
The decking has been extended - but not enough - and him indoors spent the rest of his time - after the chainsaw massacre, banging nails, swearing at bits of wood and his tape measure, sliding down the bank as he tries to dig holes for the uprights and generally having the time of his life. This is his decking, and his summer house - and when it's all finished, he's promised me he will sit down and enjoy it. But not yet. There are more important things to consider. Like there's now electricity in the summer house, and he's the proud owner of a two-ring gas burner - and he has a kettle, a frying pan and even fridge so the beer will keep cool. You've guessed it. Him indoors is now the proud possessor of a shed - every Aussie man's dream - Pom's too, I've realised. Each morning, before the sun rises and I'm still in the land of nod, he sneaks out to this shed and sits on the deck watching sun come up. It soon becomes a meeting place for several of our neighbouring husbands, and they could be found drinking coffee and eating bacon and eggs as they watch the sun rise and discuss the pros and cons of football, cricket, rugby and any other sport which involves muscle, sweat and muck. It has to be said that we wives were quite grateful. It let us off breakfast duty, allowed us to snatch another hour under the duvet, and gave us a chance to have our coffee in peace in the kitchen.
I say we went for a rest, but actually it turned into a marathon. From breakfast on the deck, to lunches on the deck, to afternoon teas and evening drinks and supper on the deck - to full blown drinking session that just managed to avoid getting out of hand. But we had fun. Now I'm going to detox for a month just to get over it.
I suppose the most memorable day we spent - off the decking - was when we went out on a friend's boat. The sea was like glass, the sky blue, the coastline etched in all its splendour against the turquoise. We motored out into deep water so the men could go fishing, and there just a few yards away was an enormous pod of porpoise. There had to be twenty or so, diving in and out, chasing the vast school of whiting that were feeding off the bottom. Needles to say the men pulled in their lines and the only thing we caught that day was a camera full of memories. Absolute bliss.
Sailing into Fowey - pronounced Foy - the Cornish make a habit of cutting out the middle bit of any name - a quirk I quite like - we joined in the armada of boats gathered there for the Fowey Water Festival. As the sky darkened this armada was lit up with coloured lights, flags and lanterns, and accompanied by music from a band on the quay, the fun began. There were huge fishing boats, little fishing boats, row boats, canoes, sailing boats of all sizes, speed boats which caused chaos, and one small dinghy that seemed to be going backwards. It was chaos, with everyone getting in everyone else's way, nobody going in the same direction and some very near misses. As they finally cleared the river and found anchorage the fireworks started, and what a display, superb.
Now, I have a fear of heights. It's not a fad, not something I put on to seem interesting or different. I simply hate heights and freeze rigid if I have to be more than a foot off the ground. We left Fowey that night in thick fog. As we headed at speed towards Polperro harbour I could see the fog coming across the land, and feel the wind driving us on. The tide was against us, and we were forced to tie up in the outer harbour. The wind was battering the boat against the grey stone wall of that outer harbour, and it was a struggle to keep the fenders in place to stop the boat from getting damaged. It was then that I learnt that I two choices. Sit it out until three in the morning when the tide would allow us to creep into the inner harbour. Sit it out until two when we could ease our way through the larger boats moored in the outer harbour and boat hop to the shore - or climb the metal ladder that we'd tied the boat to, to get up onto the harbour wall.
I looked up at my nemesis. The ladder was metal, old, slimy and covered in rust. It was so high I couldn't see the top of it. No way. I'm not going up there. I'll sit it out until two, three, I don't care. But I will not climb that thing.
An hour later and I realise I don't actually have any choice at all. Boat hopping is now not an option as the big boats are in danger of squashing us as the tide rises along with the wind. It's pitch black, and the great points of rock on the left of the harbour are sticking out against the night sky like something from the Hound of the Baskervilles. There's even a full moon. It's the ladder, or sit here until morning, and I'm starting to feel sick.
Him indoors is very understand. He's promised to stay behind me all the way, just in case I fall, freeze, or have a coronary. I make up my mind. I'll do it. Now. Before I have a chance to think any more.
Edging along the narrow side of the boat my host takes my hand and I step out over the abyss of churning water to place my foot on the iron rung. I'm wearing sandals - not the best footwear for mountaineering. I daren't look up. I don't want to know how far I will have to climb, and I know it's a long way because the top is still out of sight. Neither do I want to look down. It's pitch black, and I can hear the sea crash against the wall.
I grab the ladder and put the other foot on the rung. Him indoors is now outdoors and right behind me. He makes some daft remark about the fact I'm wearing trousers and not a skirt and I want to punch him, but all my concentration is on my feet and hands. One rung at a time. One hand, one foot, another hand, another foot. My foot steps on my husband's hand and I swear at him. He backs off and waits - wise man, I'm a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown and if I stop I'll never move again.
The climb feels endless as I continue, and then I'm at the top. I stumble to the safety of a lovely flat, broad quay and know just how the Pope felt when he kissed the ground every time he got off a plane. I don't look down, don't wave to our hosts - I just want to go home. Five minutes later my legs go weak and I have to lean against a shop window. That was quite an achievement, I realise - a first. I will have to write it down in my blog. See I was thinking of you all the time I was going through that torture - no I wasn't - my mind had gone numb!
So with all the heroics, the dinners and lunches and teas and the drinking and sailing, porpoises and mountaineering, the holiday was certainly not boring, but I've had to come back home for a rest.
Well, actually, no. I have a ton of work to do. A ton of research to get to grips with, and I've had to hit the ground running to keep to my writing schedule. Him indoors is going back to Cornwall with his mother for a whole week. Yippee, peace, quite, no snoring, no worrying about dinner and breakfast and lunch - who the hell eats lunch in a working day anyway? I'll miss him, but it will mean I can work all day and all night if I want to and the brain holds out - can sleep til ten, write until two am, watch all the soaps and get really stuck into the third part of the trilogy. I know the ending and the beginning, it's just the middle bit that's a tad troublesome.
Who ever said life was easy? It certainly wasn't an author. But at least this author has conquered a fear - well almost - I probably couldn't have done it in daylight - and certainly couldn't have managed going DOWN the ladder!

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