Friday, 11 October 2013

A Tale of Two Worlds

One of the problems associated with living in two worlds – the real one and the one that Marcia creates is keeping the two separate. Marcia tends not to consider this a problem. As far as she is concerned one is of extreme importance and the other pretty irrelevant. I find it difficult to go that far although I am happy to concede that her world should take up about sixty percent of our time I do feel that the real bit deserves the other forty.

The worlds clash, as you would expect, and no more so that when it comes to where we should be living. Unlike some really lucky people, neither of us quite knows where our roots lie (other than the fact that we both yearn for the south west corner of England when we are away from it).

Are we moorland people? Should we be living by the sea or in a remote area of farmland? We still don’t know even though we have done all three.

Then comes the where? Cornwall, Devon or Somerset. Again we don’t know even though we have lived in all three.

It has been suggested that it is time for
cats to have a look in so...
As part of an occasional Magnificat series
please welcomw Kiri from Porlock on Exmoor.
What we do know is that we always want to be wherever the book that is in the making is set. This has led to all sorts of heart searching moments which have been made no easier when the locations involved include fictional communities – as in Peneglos in The Christmas Angel (which, incidentally, reappears in Postcards from the Past). I won’t bore you with the houses we really thought for a while we would buy but didn’t. There was, for example, a lovely place down on the River Tamar, not far from where Marcia put The Sea Garden, which we both coveted and which, astonishingly, came on the market at that time.

Now, however, matters are going critical again. Not only is the book on which Marcia is working set in real places but in real places we love: Dartmouth along the south coast to Torcross and beyond. The time has come, of course, to consider what we are doing in a hard-nosed and very practical manner. Well, we have been trying to do just that, we really have. So we have a list of things we want and a list of things we don’t want. It is the latter that is causing so many problems. When you get to a certain age you have experience of all the difficulties that life can throw at you (either first or second hand) and they are legion.

So, for my part – no hedges: I have been cutting and trimming hedges most of my life and I have very fond memories of the one place that had none. I really, really don’t need all the hard work but this closes many doors.
For Marcia’s part – the house must be bright and sunny. There is nothing more depressing than living in a gloomy cottage. We speak from experience: this is another of those things we have done and do not intend to repeat.

The list goes on an on. What is really good is that we agree on everything: we need to be near a railway station so that it is easy for people to come down to see us and vice versa; we need reasonable access (preferably on foot) to the basic shops having learned the problems of a fourteen mile round trip when you need anything; we need quick and easy access to the natural world from which both of us draw a great deal. Yes, the last two requirements are incompatible. We know that. Oh, how we know that!

Anyway, we had more or less settled on the idea of making the town of Totnes our centre: it has a railway station, all the shops we need, is close to Dartmoor and to the coast. Like most towns, it is surrounded by suburbs. Neither of us want to live in a suburb which, in our extremist views, is neither one thing nor the other and offers no positive advantages. Really life would be so much easier if we were just normal but we’re not. Anyway, apart from anything else, most properties in the suburbs have hedges. That means we are either well outside Totnes (as at present) or we need to be bang in the middle. The problem is that neither of us is quite able to go for the latter although I suspect it could well happen when we get old.

Dartmouth, however, holds a special place in our hearts. We both lived there before we met and we lived there again when we were together. So we have been looking at properties in Dartmouth.

Richard Blake

Our favourite estate agent in the town is Richard Blake – and no doubt it helps that his wife loves Marcia’s books – but I have a nasty feeling that we are far from his favourite clients even though he hides that very well. He has patiently shown us a number of houses and flats which we have turned down for one reason or another but one of these days we are going to be shown a place we really love. Then what? Well, Dartmouth does not have a proper railway (there is a heritage railway that links Kingswear on the other side of the river to Paignton which has one but …). Dartmouth is now fully geared to the tourist industry and this has an odd effect. If Marcia and I walk into a shop or café in Totnes it is assumed we are locals: most people are. If we walk into a shop or café in Dartmouth it is assumed we are visitors: most people are. It is an odd feeling.

Meanwhile, it is time to leave the real world and return to the one that really matters, Marcia’s world, and to celebrate the publication of her latest book Postcards from the Past which happened yesterday. In a moment we are off to Totnes where she will be signing books in the aptly named Totnes Bookshop and tomorrow she will be off to Kingsbridge to the Harbour Bookshop. Let the dance commence.

Ti and Chloe share the rostrum as blog dogs untied this week.