Yesterday it was Bude. I drove there using the A39 (the 'Atlantic Highway') from Bideford, westwards past Clovelly, past Hartland, and south to Kilkhampton before entering Bude the back way, via Poughill. I stopped off in Kilkhampton to inspect the church, admire the masses of daffodils outside, and to contemplate a certain little pink-washed cottage next to the village stores that I once had the pleasure of visiting.
The forecast of a sunny and warm day hadn't been fulfilled: it was dry, and that was the best you could say. I parked at Flexbury, and walked over the golf course into the town centre.
The main objective was Wroes, Bude's surprisingly good department store, and its sunny Ocean View Café with that amazing panorama of Bude Haven. I have visited this Café on every visit since 2009. It was the scene of that wonderful phone call from the selling agents in 2011, when they told me that the Cottage had been sold, releasing me in an instant from four long years of frightening indebtedness. I had owed £325,000. That was now off my shoulders. I was light-headed with relief, and I nearly cried. The awful strain of coping with such debt has made me unable to consider ever getting into the same situation again, even slightly. I got my life back, and that's no exaggeration.
As it usually does, the sun came out as I drank my tea and tucked into my cake. Then I wandered into the store's cookshop, and bought a neat little frying pan and two red silicone cooking spoons. And I caught sight of a young woman who looked familiar, who had served me in the linen department two years previously in July 2012 when I'd wanted a king-sized fitted flannelette sheet. At that time she was pregnant and due to quit to have her baby within a few days. She'd nevertheless ransacked the behind-the-scenes shelves for me, and had come up with exactly what I'd wanted. Now she was back at Wroes, but in childrenswear and lingerie. Her name was Gemma. I went up to her and discovered that she'd noticed me too, as a customer she'd seen sometime before. She wasn't good with names, but remembered faces (gosh, mine must be like a gargoyle if she could recognise it after nearly two years!). She was delighted when I asked how the rest of her pregnancy, and the birth, had gone. She'd had a protracted labour, but had produced a lovely 7-pound baby girl. My cue of course to mention Matilda! Babies are a brilliant topic for women to discuss, who only casually know each other.
It was so nice to see her again. In fact it made my day. I wondered if this encounter might be the first of a trio: if Gemma in Bude, then why not Libby in Sidmouth, and Lorraine in Axminster? I was now in the mood for whatever unexpected reunions the gods might find it amusing to arrange.
That wasn't quite all of my Bude experience. The town also has a very good electronic retailer called Woolacotts, and on display in their TV section was a monster 4K screen by Sony, a snip at (gulp) £2,999. As a matter of fact, it wasn't possible yet to receive the relevant TV transmissions, so they were showing recorded stuff on it. But wow. Such amazing sharpness and detail, such subtle colour, and what a good 3D effect! I decided there and then that I'd want nothing less when I eventually discarded Mum and Dad's old non-HD widescreen for a better model. The asking price would have to come down somewhat, of course! And I'd probably put a kitchen makeover before a new TV in any case.