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JUBILATION! My boy is back…Happy Days!

3 Dec



11 Jul

The architect said that I must move out because of the major structural work they were planning to do to my beautiful Kensington flat. They were knocking down walls and renewing the pipes, ripping up floorboards, opening up a skylight.   All I possessed had to go into store.   For six months minimum, possibly more, no-one could live in the place.   My immediate thought was a Tuscan villa for a lazy convivial summer with friends.   I had a book to complete and could use a break.  But the older cat was newly bereaved and the kitten had only just left its mother.   I couldn’t uproot them and take them abroad, nor would I dream of farming them out.    So instead I rented a house on Dartmoor where I hadn’t set foot and knew no-one at all, having never been even remotely attracted to rural life in the raw.   But it filled a gap and was worth a try.    Who knows, might even inspire another book.

Having always lived in the centre of towns I never needed to learn to drive.    Nor did I ever have kids to ferry around.  One thing learnt after six months there, Dartmoor without a car is a definite no-no.    The nearest shops were three miles away and local buses sporadic and rare.   My principal preoccupation was simply surviving.   In London I live in the centre of things with Marks & Spencer across the street, Waitrose close by and Tesco on the next block.  If I find, while cooking, there is something I lack, I simply turn down the gas and pop out.    Failing that, if it’s belting with rain or I’m halfway through Coronation Street, I have congenial neighbours on either side.

Not so on Dartmoor.   Acquiring food was a far more daunting manoeuvre.   It involved a rugged cross-country hike, wearing weatherproof jacket and sturdy shoes, down the overgrown path through the woods, across a field full of threatening cows, over a stream by means of a plank and into a farmyard defended by snarling dogs.  Then along the lane and over a stile and another plank bridge leading into more woods and from there a leisurely riverside stroll to a very steep hill leading finally up to the village.  All my shopping went into a backpack since I needed both hands to negotiate gates and thrash my way through waist-high nettles and bracken.    I made that round trip at least twice a week and again on Sundays to pick up the papers (which the friendly postman delivered the other six days.)    The entire expedition took over two hours though I pared down the time the fitter I got.   It also helped if I stopped for a drink before facing the mammoth trek home.

Wednesday was early closing day when the only shop open was the SPAR, a fact I found out the hard way in torrential rain.   Eventually, after I’d been there three months, news reached me of Tesco in Newton Abbot who would deliver the heavier stuff – cat food and litter, potatoes and booze – while I kept my faith with the market stalls for fresh produce.

My cats, who had only been indoor pets, adapted with ease to the outdoor life.   They bolted their food then scratched at the door and shot off into the wilderness, returning home for supper at six on the dot.   Though, being the pedigree creatures they are,  they still popped back to make use of the litter tray.

Time passed and I started to make new friends;   country people are, in the main, more convivial.    I visited local beauty spots and became quite a fixture in the pub.   I was also making progress with a new book.   A dribble of guests came down at weekends or met me in Exeter for extravagant lunches.   The journey there took almost an hour and the last bus home left at 5.15. When the clocks went back and the night closed in, I found myself too scared to venture outside. This wasn’t the city; there were no lights nor traffic clamour nor passersby.   Only the moor where the threatening gloom pulsated with sinister things.  Several times the power failed and once the phoneline was down for ten days.  When it rained the water seeped under the door and flooded the downstairs cloakroom.

Back home my flat was still full of builders, months after the promised completion date.   Two weeks off Christmas,  I finally put down my foot.   The romantic notions were long since fled.  The thought of a solitary winter down there appalled me.   I have lived alone most of my adult life, in solitary silence in order to write, but am still a social animal to the core.  My Kensington neighbours are a lively mix of international bankers and lawyers as well as the writers and publishing folk that are my more intimate friends.    We meet for drinks and occasional meals and generally socially inter-react.   The Albert Hall is just blocks away as well as Harrods and the major museums.   Buses stop right outside my front door;  the tube is across the street.

Dartmoor could not be more different.   The only sounds were the gale force winds, the rattle of hail on the windowpanes or the anguished screams that heralded sudden death.    I informed the builders I was moving back and a friend obligingly picked me up.   The flat was a tip but I didn’t care;  the only thing that mattered was that I was home.   It was warm and safe with its opened up rooms and panoramas across the roofs plus the heart-warming rumble of traffic from Kensington High Street.   The Christmas shoppers were out in force and the Barkers building  ablaze with light while a steel band belted out carols beneath my window.   Noisy but nice, a far cry from lonely Dartmoor.

I will never go back though they beg me to.   The cats may miss it but I do not.  Though I did get a another idea for a creepy book.


21 Jan

Well, it’s not quite finished yet but you get the picture.    And I am racing along with the new book which is set in Kensington again and kicks off with the Diamond Jubilee.    How patriotic is that!


9 Jan

New year, new prospects, new book almost done.    So time to update my website.    WATCH THIS SPACE.