Today has been a surprisingly restful day. It always starts well, when I’ve managed to get my post finished before the school run. Plus, too, it’s a nursery day, which means the little one is dropped off first. Amazing how much that reduces the stress, even if we have to leave the house earlier.
We had a slight hiccup when hubbie came down and asked if we could redo the bathroom and boiler system. I still have nightmares from having our kitchen redone three years ago and my answer was rather short and snappy (and my misdirected bad mood resulted in a crying child who had to be placated)
Apologies and hugs all round and tranquillity was soon restored. I left a smiling child at nursery and another one at school, then wandered down to the charity shop to get some books and puzzles as stocking fillers (knowing that quantity is as important as quality for my children, and they don’t mind if Father Christmas buys second hand!)
I managed to be home and writing by 9.30am, successfully ignoring the rubbish tip that is my house, the towering pile of laundry waiting to be sorted and ironed, and the hundred and one other chores all around.
Hubbie rang mid-morning and asked if I could run a favour for him in town. As the sun is shining today, it’s a good time to be out and about, and doing it to help out someone else stops me feeling guilty for not writing.
I rushed out to walk the dog first, because she asked me so very nicely, then headed off in the car, singing Michael Bublé at the top of my voice. I love driving in the sunshine, with blue skies over head and great music on the stereo. If I’m not in a hurry I’m quite happy to drive for miles.
Chore completed, I took the car to the car wash next door and finally got rid of the two inches of road dirt on my boot that the kids have been drawing in in the mornings. Well, to be precise, some lovely people cleaned it while I sat inside and read All in the Leaves by Pat Elliott.
Then a cheeky McD lunch, while I did some more writing and surfed the free WiFi; I even remembered to take a picture of Doggy in the café, as requested by my son this morning, when he asked me to take his favourite toy to work with me.
I decided to drive straight to town, rather than go home and come back for the school run. So I’m currently in the supermarket café drinking my free cup of Earl Grey and making up new adventures for Claire, while the sun slips slowly to the horizon outside the window. Shortly I shall head off and walk across town to school, rather than screeching in late having legged it round with the dog at a zillion miles an hour. This calm and organised lark is rather pleasant.
Ah well, normal chaos will resume tomorrow I’m sure.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
Claire’s stomach began to squirm as she drove the almost familiar road into town. Conor wasn’t expecting her for two days and she wasn’t sure how he would greet her early arrival. When she’d finished her conversation with Kim she’d realised how stupid it was driving all the way to Cornwall only to have to travel back to Dorset two days later for the Carnival.
How did it creep up on me so quickly?
The fortnight with the boys had passed in a blink, despite each day feeling a hundred hours long. How did time work like that? Being both fast and slow?
She let her mind drift over the unsolvable problem, ignoring the mounting tension as she headed into the centre, wondering where she was going to find a room for the night. Her accommodation was booked for the Carnival week, but she had no idea if there would be space at the hostel for the two extra nights. The idea of telling Conor she had nowhere to sleep did strange things to her tummy.
The car park at the side of the hostel wasn’t full and Claire took it as a good sign. She’d forgotten how gothic the building looked, all grey stone and higgledy-piggledy windows. Looking around at the tired hostel, with the grimy details she hadn’t noticed on her last stay, she began to have second thoughts about arriving early. In her mind she saw the clean and bright hostels of southern Cornwall, with the crisp sea breeze and the rolling surf calling her out to play.
In the distance she could see Swanage Bay glistening in the afternoon sun, with the barrow climbing up behind. It reminded her of a phone call with Conor, what felt like light-years ago, when she’d hiked along that barrow into town. The day he’d called and offered her a job. With the knowledge she possessed now, would the outcome of that day been different?
Claire looked around the tiny room that would be home for the next week or so, and sighed, hoping she would be so busy with whatever Conor needed her to do that she wouldn’t be in the hostel all that much. The darkness of the building felt oppressive and it smelt like mouldy carpet.
As soon as she’d left her bag on the only available bed, Claire headed out into the fresh air and followed the long road down the hill to town, in search of coffee. She knew she should call Conor straight away, but her mind went blank every time she thought of it.
It felt strange, wandering through Swanage again. During her time travelling around the South West, she had remembered the town through Conor’s eyes; through his passion and sense of belonging. Coming again, unannounced and fresh from the very depths of Cornwall, the town felt small and dated. The endless grey stone hemmed her in and the shops seemed insufferably twee.
She tried to compare it dispassionately with St Ives or Penzance. The former was similar in a way, with the same steep, winding streets and small shops, surrounded by the beach and the ocean. If anything the streets were more narrow and the stone buildings just as forbidding in wet weather. But, inside, one felt welcoming and the other didn’t.
Without realising where she was going, Claire’s footsteps took her down to the shore near the pier. The sun dipped behind a cloud and a shadow fell over the concrete slip, where a father and two sons were pulling their canoe out of the sea. The air felt cooler by the bay, relieving some of the oppressive heat of the day. Claire ordered a coffee and sat on the picnic table staring out at the boats on the water.
Forcing herself to dial without thinking, she called her boss and waited for him to answer. Her heart beat loudly in her throat.
“Hello, Conor speaking.”
The deep Irish voice made Claire jump when it came suddenly on the line. She didn’t answer immediately, and felt foolish when Conor said, “Hello? Claire is that you?”
“Yes, sorry, hi Conor. I had a mouthful of coffee.”
He laughed, but it was a tight sound and he spoke again immediately. “Is everything okay? I’m rather busy.”
“Yes. Sorry to disturb you. I just wanted to let you know I’m in town. For the Carnival.”
“I thought you weren’t coming until Friday?” The flatness of the question drove Claire’s heart into her stomach.
“I had to take the boys to my mum’s house and it seemed daft to drive right past the door back to Cornwall.” Her titter made her cringe. “So, I’m here ready to help. What can I do?”
The line went quiet, and Claire sipped at her coffee. Her hands shook and she dropped the cup with a clatter back into its saucer.
Eventually Conor spoke again. “Great. That’s great. Listen, we’re not really ready for you. Can you hang fire and I’ll give you a buzz?”
Claire murmured her assent and disconnected the call. Wrapping her hands around the warm coffee cup, she shivered as she stared out across the sea.