I reached 49 blog followers today. I’m so excited. I have never actively tried to get followers so I always feel that each person who clicks ‘follow’ does so purely because they like my blog and not because I have visited theirs and been nice. Not to say I don’t read loads of blogs – it’s the highlight of my day. I’ve just been to sites where it seems the whole purpose of the blog is to get followers. While I might envy their 500 fans I don’t necessarily approve of their approach. So I am very proud and I hope everyone who follows my blog genuniely enjoys my ramblings!
Today’s post is a deadline-chasing one. I normally write the day before and schedule the post for 10am to give me a buffer. Yesterday I used that buffer and chose to watch Got to Dance, snuggled under a blanket, instead.
It is 9.51am as I type this so I have 9 minutes to hit my normal 10am post deadline. (I won’t hit it, I’m in a cafe, it will take at least that long to upload a photo and do a final proof-read.)
As always happens when you’re already late I hit a barrier this morning. Claire is due to stay at Wooler today as the next YHA hostel from Berwick. I thought I’d better check it’s open on 3rd March, which is what the date is in the novel. It isn’t. As far as I can tell from the online booking it doesn’t open until the end of March. So I was as flumoxed as Claire is, and had to send her to Alnwick instead. Which is a pain because I did all my data-gathering on Wooler yesterday. Such is the life of on-the-fly writing… Still, it did mean I could put a lovely picture of Alnwick Castle in my post!
The drive to Wooler was not long enough. Claire felt the presence of her phone like a black hole, dragging her in.
I will not give in. I can’t do it. However much I’m hurting him now, it’s a fraction of what it will do if I answer now and leave again later.
Claire sat upright in the uncomfortable seat and stared at the road ahead. The pull of the phone on the passenger seat was like an itch in the corner of her eye. A chicken-pox itch. All consuming but laden with the knowledge that a moment’s weakness might leave a life-long scar.
All too soon Claire reached her destination. Wooler. It was bigger than she expected; a pretty place with amazing views over the hills. I must check what hills they are and write about it in the blog. Healthy living and all that. I’m sure I’m meant to recommend hikes or mountain biking or something. She looked down at her pristine jeans, spotless Helly Hansons and unchipped nails. As if.
She missed the YHA sign the first time and had to drive up and down Cheviot Street until she saw it next to a side road. Her expectations rose as she turned off down the lane but they crashed to earth when she drew up outside the building.
A bit different to Berwick. You don’t get further from a five-story former Granary than this… sheltered-housing bungalow.
It wasn’t just the building that was a surprise. It was the fact that it looked abandoned. Claire’s heart-rate picked up and she could taste bile rising in her throat. It hadn’t occurred to her to ring ahead and book. I mean, who stays in a hostel in March? She looked at the dark building in front of her. Apparently no one in Wooler.
Wanting to be proved wrong Claire got out the car and walked over to the low brick building. She peered through the windows and tried the door but she didn’t need to rattle it to know it was locked. Bollocks. It was freezing standing in the car park. Claire retreated to the car and got out her iPad. She tried to load the YHA page but couldn’t get any signal. Big fat hairy bollocks.
Claire sat back in her seat, frozen. Her brain kept bouncing between her current predicament and the message from Michael. She was conscious of a strong urge to call him. He would know what to do. She shook her head, hard enough to hurt, and put the key in the ignition. Her choices were to drive back to Berwick or to find another YHA hostel nearby that was open, but she couldn’t make the decision here with no access to the wider world.
Nearer the main road Claire’s iPad reconnected to the superhighway and she was able to find another hostel in Alnwick that said it was open all year round. I should have checked that last night. Stupid girl. Not wanting to chance it, Claire phoned the hostel and was brightly informed that there was plenty of space either in a dorm or a private room. Book a private room, bugger the budget. Pay for it yourself if you have to. Claire listened to the internal voice and spoke into the receiver.
“Can I book a dorm bed please? Yes, just for one night. Great. … Ten o’clock?” Claire checked her watch. “How long will it take from Wooler? … Okay, I’ll be there in half an hour.”
What the…? What possessed me to book a dorm-bed? And reception is only open until 10am, what’s that all about? Thank god I left early this morning to avoid Hattie.
Sighing at the betrayal of her brain, Claire tapped the post code into her sat nav and pulled back onto the main road. At least now she had more to think about than Michael. I guess I’d better check the hostel information and book ahead a day or two. She looked around the Skoda. This is not a car I want to spend the night in.
Claire pulled up outside the dark brick building and shivered. It didn’t look very welcoming. The information on Alnwick said the hostel used to be a court house. I can believe it. A quick check showed her it was two minutes to ten. Abandoning the Skoda on the single yellow outside the building Claire rushed in before reception closed.
Walking into the hostel was how Claire imagined it might be to enter the Tardis. As dark as it was on the outside it was bright on the inside. The interior was clearly new and although it was done in the cheap laminate and robust carpet of a dentist or doctors surgery at least it wasn’t oppressive. After staying at Berwick, Claire was getting used to the bland décor and barely registered it as she hurried to Reception.
“Ah you must be the lady who rang from Wooler. Did no one tell you it isn’t open all year round?” The man at reception grinned jovially. Claire felt the blood rush to her cheeks and replied in a small voice. “I didn’t think to ask.”
“New to this are you sweetheart? Best to book ahead even at this time of year. Lucky we had space.”
Claire felt as if she had been chastised. She filled in the forms, asked where she could park the car, and took the key to her room without another word. She wasn’t ready to view the dorm, or to discover who she would be sharing her personal space with that evening. With a short wave at the cheery receptionist she went back to her car just as a Parking Attendant stuck a ticket to the windscreen.
In a former life Claire would have rushed up to the man and attempted to charm, cajole or threaten him into taking the ticket back. Instead she waited a few paces away until he had walked off, then went to the car and ripped the yellow square off. She climbed into the driver’s seat, fighting back tears, and vowed to put the damn thing in the post to Carl.
They didn’t say anything about the bloody daily budget having to cover parking tickets.