Wednesday, 3 August 2011

North Devon holiday, day 1

What a day! It's been the first full day of my holiday in North Devon, and full of pleasant events and encounters - bar one thing, which will cost me money.

So let's get the not-so-good thing out of the way first. A screwhead has appeared in the tread of one of the expensive new tyres I bought back in May. It was already well sunk in, and had mangled the surrounding rubber. I knew that pulling it out (if I could) would instantly deflate the tyre, so I left well alone, and consulted the Volvo dealership in Barnstaple (Kastner). I wasn't surprised to hear that the tyre was a write-off for any but the most undemanding use. I certainly shouldn't risk a blow-out towing my caravan with it. So I'm booked in for a replacement tyre at 2:00pm tomorrow, and will drive sparingly and slowly meanwhile (not over 60mph, anyway). I have to say, their service receptionist Rachel was a very pleasant and helpful young lady (I told her so), and the technician who examined the tyre was a cut above most garage staff that I've met. And their loo was spotless. It was bad news about the tyre, but a great experience nevertheless.

And now some major, major good news. Before I ventured into Barnstaple, I phoned the auctioneers and discussed a post-auction offer just received on the Cottage. Yes, a credible offer of the asking price (that is, the reserve price at the auction on 30 June). I first heard about it by email the previous afternoon, when stuck in a traffic jam with the caravan in tow. This morning I learned more and it sounded good. So no more to be said for now - let's not tempt the fickle gods - but potentially this could be my deliverance from the burden of running two homes.

After seeing the Volvo dealer, I parked in Barnstaple town centre, and my first steps brought me to the Queen's Theatre. A sign outside drew attention to their first-floor Gallery Cafe. Wow, I felt so hungry! So in I went, and enjoyed a delicious Coronation Chicken panini, washed down by Elderflower cordial. The staff were SO friendly. Again, great loos. Another lift-the-spirits experience!

I then went around the shops trying to buy the compass that I'd already researched on the Internet. It was a good make, but not an expensive model: the Suunto A-30, web price around £17.50, plus delivery. But not one of the 'outdoor' dealers had it. So I think I'll have to forego walking about in mist and fog, until I get home and order the thing online. Once again, my reception in each shop was uniformly friendly, and that didn't flag when I wouldn't buy a substitute.

I was taking photos of old buildings all the time, and an old chap came up to me, and gave me his advice on how to get a good shot of Butcher's Row. That was very pleasant of him, even if the tips were unnecessary (although I would never tell anyone that). He went on to give me his personal list of the 'top ten' things worth photographing in Barnstaple. He obviously thought I was worth talking to!

Inside the Pannier Market, I had a long conversation with a nice lady selling homemade knitted cardigans for very small children. She kept knitting as we spoke - how impressive that she could do that!

In the church, a group of elderly ladies had a tombola, and for just £1.00 I could draw three tickets. I never win, but they were nice ladies, the cause was good, and the prizes were fabric items they had actually made themselves; so I paid my pound, pretty well as a donation. But would you believe it, two of my tickets won me something, and I acquired an attractive shoulder-bag and purse! Was it a sign that my luck is improving?

Finally, back at the farm, there was a man eating a sandwich in the sun next to his bike. 'You seem to be enjoying a good rest!' I said to him, with a twinkle in my eye. It turned out that he'd cycled on ahead, and the motorcaravan wasn't far behind. We had a lighthearted exchange, then I opened the gate (with a little difficulty: you had to lift it up a bit, and I found it heavy) and drove through. Once again the Melford manner must have worked its magic, for lo, the chap put down his lunch and closed the gate behind me, saving me the trouble. How really nice of him.

Thus has passed Day One. How good people are to me. And I can't quite see why!

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