Saturday, 20 February 2016

It pays to keep a diary

I keep various diaries. Some are just big spreadsheets, recording (for instance) my money transactions, with all kinds of detail. Others are just lists, with dates. And some are narratives - again with dates and much extra detail. My diaries can of course be cross-referenced with each other. They can pinpoint (for example) where I was on the day, or at which shop I bought something, who I shared a meal with, or where I took photographs. All my diaries are completely consistent with each other. In particular, the one I call Money Diary can't be faked, because it has to record all the correct running balances, which have been reconciled (to the last penny) against the bank and credit card statements. I therefore can't falsify dates and amounts spent, nor insert or omit particular items. It's a completely reliable record - one that can be checked.

A lot of unnecessary hard work? A symptom of an empty life? Or autism? Well, I often have reason to look up when I paid for something, or what it cost, or where I might have been on a certain date. I have the historian's instinct.

And if ever the police ring my front doorbell, and ask me to assist them in their Buried Body In The Garden Midsomer Murder Enquiries, it will be really cool to to give an instant answer to such insinuating questions as:

'And where were you, Miss Melford, on the afternoon of 26th May 2010?'

Many people would be dismayed with such a question, and would writhe suspiciously, unable to establish their whereabouts and therefore an alibi. But I would simply look in one or other of my diaries - there on the phone in my very hand - and reply:

'Why, officer! I've recorded three things in my Money Diary that I did that day: I bought fuel at Tesco in Burgess Hill; I paid a local man called Paul for painting the facia boards of Ouse Cottage in Piddinghoe; and I bought food at Sainsbury's in Newhaven. You could ask Paul about the time I paid him. And the petrol and food purchases will be on my credit card statements. Which I have copies of. I think you can easily see, officer, that if I was doing these things in Sussex, and can prove it, I clearly couldn't have been burying bodies in Midsomer!'

To which the expected reply must surely be:

'Quite so! We will have to eliminate you from our enquiries. Sorry to trouble you, Miss.'

Do I need to say more? Diaries, meticulously maintained, can be very handy.

And in connection with my bad toe - sorry to go on and on about it, but I can hardly ignore the subject at the moment - I've now remembered that I had some trouble with it last year. I wrote about it in my 2015 Caravan Diary. I was staying near Lyme Regis at the time, and had spent a day visiting a number of churchyards in search of graves, doing the family genealogical thing. It's the passage in bold in what follows:

2015 0416 to 0421 Curlew Farm, Trinity Hill, Axminster, Devon EX13 8SZ (Caravan Club CL)
6 nights. Arrive Thursday, depart Wednesday.   

I arrived in sunshine after a smooth journey that I did not rush. It felt quite warm. Rather a change, I thought, from last month in Devon! I didn't have the site to myself: one other caravan was already there, and two others arrived on Friday. But on Sunday two departed, leaving just two of us again, widely separated.

The weather got colder, however. Although Saturday was still sunny, a stiff breeze had sprung up, dashing any thoughts of a lightly-clad stroll along the beach at Sidmouth! By Sunday afternoon, the breeze was less, and the bright sunshine and blue skies made it all seem lovely - at least if adequately clad! Monday was a beautiful day. Then the chilly breeze returned. It remained very sunny, however, and I had to admit that for the amount of continuous sunshine I enjoyed, this part of my holiday was the best for a long time.

As had become traditional, I went into Lyme Regis on my first night. On Friday I went to Sainsbury's in Exeter (Pinhoe) to buy more leggings, then on to Killerton, the other place [M---] and I went to on my birthday in 1994 - and I was still wearing the little silver ring she bought me on that long-ago occasion. On Saturday I visited Á la Ronde and Exmouth. On Sunday it was Portland. On Monday I headed inland, seeking out Dommett gravestones in various churchyards on the Devon/Somerset border. On my last day, Tuesday, I went into Sidmouth, and then in the evening Lyme Regis again, for my first fish and chips of the year.

One thing slightly compromised my peace and quiet on Saturday and Sunday - a model aircraft rally was being held in the field across the road. So, from mid-morning to dusk, there was the buzz and whine of tiny engines as model planes and helicopters were put through their paces. But most of it was avoidable simply by going out as normal.

When phoning Peg on Friday evening I learned that Mavis had died. I immediately wanted to go to the funeral, if the date wasn't impossible for me. Richard told me that it was on Friday 2015 0424, so I could go. I felt I would be representing Mum. Thank goodness I'd packed a suitable dress, jacket and shoes!

On Monday I somehow hurt the toe on my right foot next to my big toe. As the evening wore on, it became tender and ached. It was much the same next morning. As I hadn't stubbed it, and it didn't look obviously inflamed, I wondered whether walking over the rough ground in the churchyards I'd visited could have sprained some ligament. Within a day or so the pain had gone.

Acquiring 4G on Demelza made little difference in these parts. Mobile phone reception was good for calls, but on the slow side for the Internet. I was reminded again and again that out-of-town Sussex was very well served with all kinds of conveniences, but out-of-town Devon was not. That said, I could still imagine living very comfortably down here. I suppose the tug of Devon will never go away.

So, the rough ground in one or other churchyard had in some way put a strain on this toe, inducing temporary pain that disappeared 'within a day or so'. Perhaps I'd strained and weakened some structure inside the toe, and it had never quite recovered - making it susceptible to a repeat injury.

One churchyard, at Otterton on the south edge of Somerset, had been particularly difficult to walk around. I was wearing only ordinary flat shoes. The sun-baked ground was especially lumpy:


I spent some time there, checking out the inscriptions on every gravestone. It was remarkable that I didn't turn an ankle too.

So now I have a small diagnostic clue to give to the doctor, when I see her in three days' time (it's another doctor this time, the young one who put her finger on that trouble I had with my left arm late last year). I shall suggest to her that it could be a badly-inflamed ligament. I wonder what she'll say.

That Caravan Diary extract from last year is completely typical. I do the same wherever I happen to be pitched. For years now, I've been producing screeds in parallel with whatever I post on my blog. Hardly a day goes by, at home or on holiday, without spending some time writing something!

That last remark in the extract remains true: I was reminded again and again that out-of-town Sussex was very well served with all kinds of conveniences, but out-of-town Devon was not. That said, I could still imagine living very comfortably down here. I suppose the tug of Devon will never go away. I can't see myself moving now, but I shall always be wistful for the West Country. Thank goodness I have the means to visit it.

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