The day after the Woking Writers party Diana and I headed down to Cornwall. We decided that this was the time to take the second car down (as well as the first). Since one car is a large old Mercedes and the other a tiny Toyota Aygo which have very different driving characteristics, especially going uphill, we didn’t drive in convoy. Instead, we arranged to rendezvous at Cartgate picnic area, which is pretty much halfway. Diana set off first in the Aygo. She stopped for petrol, I bought buns to eat at Cartgate. I caught her up at the M3 and went sailing by.
Just short of Stonehenge, I pulled into a layby for a rest. My shoulder and neck start to ache if I drive too long. Six minutes later, Diana went past (yes, I was timing it). I passed her back on a stretch of dual carriageway. At Cartgate I stopped and got out of the car for a stretch and walk around while waiting.
After ten minutes I started to think Diana should have arrived. After fifteen I was thinking she should definitely have arrived and started thinking about invoking the emergency phone call procedure. We had agreed that, since you can’t answer a phone while driving, we should call the other three times, so that they could stop and call back. But then Diana called me. “I think I’ve overshot,” she said. “So do I,” I said. “I’m in the Blackdown Hills,” she said. “You’ve overshot,” I said.
We decided that I should eat my bun and have a cup of coffee from the picnic case, while she stopped at the Little Chef near Honiton for something similar. I drank my coffee in a leisurely way and set off. I thought I might call in at the Little Chef to see if she was still there and as I pulled in I saw through the shrubs a little red car moving off. It was Diana, so I drove through the car park and followed her out onto the road, overtaking on the dual carriageway.
West of Exeter I stopped again (shoulder) and Diana went by again. I overtook, again, and after three hours and fifty minutes of driving time (nearer five hours elapsed) reached Wadebridge. I just had time to drive into the garage door before Diana arrived.
Monday we spent doing very little and on Tuesday we went to the doctor for our initial appointments. This was where, as new patients, we had to explain our current ailments and set up repeat prescriptions. This took some time. With age come ailments. By the time I’d finished explaining what there was, the doctor said I should book another appointment – “In fact, make it a double” – in two weeks to go through a couple of things in full detail.
(Even as I write this first draft, the “with age come ailments” principle is playing itself out in the Mercedes, which has just failed its MOT on the grounds of corroded rear brake pipes, and has a couple of advisory actions on items which are wearing out, but not yet significantly. Maybe it’s time to replace it, an option available on a car but not necessarily on a person.)
Diana started cutting plants back in the herb bed and accumulated a sackful of dead twigs, so we investigated Cornwall Council’s garden waste scheme and ordered a brown bin and a permit up to September. She also went down to yoga class in the town hall.
On Thursday we went to Polzeath. There was little cloud and though the breeze was cool, it was the sunniest day on the beach we had had for a year or two. We strolled across the beach and into the Waterfront bar for lunch. The Waterfront is not quite on the waterfront, except on the very highest tides when the sea floods the road, but it is up stairs so you get a good view across the beach to the sea and cliffs. After lunch we followed the tide out. The water running down the sand from the streams was surprisingly warm, which we surmised came from being shallow and spread out under the sun. Most of the pools left behind by the tide had also warmed, but the sea itself – no. Ten Celsius according to weather websites, which I can quite believe. There weren’t many people in the water; the waves were too low for decent surfing. But three had taken long-handle paddles and were standing on their boards paddling away, and occasionally catching a wave for a few feet.
As we approached the steps up to the cliff, a Kelly’s ice cream van came across from the car park to the foot of the steps to get the custom of the people who had based themselves there. He succeeded, and I came away with my first ’99’ of the year.
On Sunday morning Wadebridge Bowling Club was holding an open morning. I had been talking about joining a bowls club for a while, so this was my opportunity. (Bowls is genetic. My grandma and grandpa Smith played, my father played, my brother plays – all at county level – and my nephew is an under-25 international.) Wadebridge Bowling Club has an interesting website, which I suspect has been developed by its younger members and hasn’t been looked at by its traditionalists. Any club claiming to have been founded a few years prior to the Black Death is worth a try, I thought. (Check it out here.)
Diana came with me, to watch, and we parked in the free-on-Sundays little car park next to the bowling green. Several people were already there. Bowls club members could be identified by white jackets and grey trousers, the rest of by varieties of clothing and colour. A member came up and found me a rink to join and a set of woods. We bowled a few ends, learning a few basic rules and getting an approximate feel for how hard and how wide you have to deliver the woods. One lady was having trouble sending the woods far enough and in trying to put in more effort, kept delivering them off to the left. The other lady proved extremely accurate, hitting the jack several times, but usually with too much weight. I tended to over-adjust between too long and too short. But we all “won” some ends and then the coach called time. I decided to sign up, filled in the form and paid my £10 affiliation fee. The club gives free membership for the first year, apart from this fee, so that new members can use the cash to buy the necessary kit.
I sent off for mid-grey trousers the next day, from an internet bowls supplier. They arrived a couple of days later – not stylish (I haven’t owned a pair of trousers that colour since school uniform), but they fit, with a bit of room for expansion (which I intend not to need), and are teflon-coated to make them water and stain resistant. If you think of them as sports kit rather than clothing there’s no problem. My first club night was Friday, but rain prevented play.
On Monday bank holiday, in a complete change from bowls, Diana and I put on wetsuits and headed for Polzeath with our body boards, which we discovered fit nicely in the little car. The sun was out and the walk across the beach was great. The main risk was overheating. My feet realised first that we had reached the sea. Cold. Coldcoldcold. I waded out, nervously anticipating the first wave to hit the crotch. Having got that over with, it was down to catching waves. As usual, Diana was judging it well and caught a few good ones right into the shallows where the board grounds. I managed a few shorter rides, but never that exhilarating rush all the way. We didn’t stay in long. It was more the principle of the thing. Still in wetsuits, we drank coffee on the rocks (sitting on the rocks, that is, not with ice) while the tide reached its highest point and turned just below us.
On Tuesday I took the car for its MOT, which it failed (see above) but it was then repaired and passed. In the afternoon we went to Trelawney’s Garden Centre and found that they don’t have lawnmowers, but do have a loyalty card. Then we stopped off at the local library to join it.
On Wednesday it rained and we stayed in and read the books from the library. At various times I wrote and re-drafted this blog, which is getting entirely too recursive…