Everything is so uncertain at the moment isn’t it. Who would have thought a few months back that the coming Spring, which is normally a time when we come out of the doldrums of a long grey winter and start to feel upbeat, discover a spring in our step, enjoy the warmth of the sun on our face and the pleasure of being in the great outdoors, was going to be a time of closing ourselves off from the world, of fear and potential isolation. A time that will maybe see the worse of people’s behaviour by stockpiling and not giving a thought for anyone else, especially the elderly, the vulnerable and those with a limited income. We are used to finding everything we need on our supermarket shelves and it’s Let’s hope that it will also bring out the best in people. To show concern, support, awareness and for being a good neighbour. I’m sure that you all saw the amazing videos of people in locked-down Italy singing in unity from their baconies and windows. It was just so touching. We are as a rule, a reserved nation and maybe singing together from our homes is something we would find difficult to do, but wouldn’t it be something if we could all look out for each other and not just ourselves!
We face an uncertain and difficult period in our lives. The scariest thought is that we may lose those that are so dear to us. That is just too horrible to even contemplate. So many facets of our lives will be disrupted. There are financial implications, businesses will suffer, our freedom to do what we want will be limited, relationships will have a sticky time. But life will be normal again. We will get to meet up for coffee with our friends, go to the cinema, invite the family around for a bbq and hopefully we will come out the other side being a more appeciative and caring society.
There, that’s my bit on the Corona virus crisis said.
Book news! I’ve had a turnaround of thought regarding not serialising it on here. I decided a few months back that I didn’t want to risk anyone stealing my idea, but I’m thinking, what the heck, the likelihood of that happening are small and as I’ve discovered, there are already books out there that are similar! There are definitely other writers of a similar age to me who know all about women feeling invisible and unfulfilled wanting to go and find themselves before it’s too late! So my way of thinking is that as there is a real chance that it may never get published then why not share it here where it might end up being read by some of you lovely people.
So, here’s the next instalment. It’s the first draft and will be edited so may eventually look different from the finished piece. You are by reading it my much appreciated guinea pigs!
A quick reminder of where we left off. Maggie is staying in The Star in Devon. A neglected village pub ran by the amiable and talented cook Charles. Meanwhile Gordon is trying to cope on his own at home.
You can read the story so far in previous blog posts.
Maggie Thornden Where Are You?
Maggie sat on the edge of the bed with her phone in her hand. She could feel her heart thumping in her chest and her breakfast churning in her stomach. Her left leg trembled nervously causing her foot to rapidly tap on the floorboards. She knew that it was she who was in the wrong for letting it go this long without speaking to Gordon and to at least try and explain why she had left him. It was so typical of her to avoid confrontation with her husband. She always ended up saying something stupid or getting emotional which just infuriated him so it was easier to play safe and adapt the shut up and put up way of dealing with issues.
For three days she had tried to keep the niggling voice in her head that was telling her to do the right thing and phone Gordon quiet but she knew that the longer she delayed talking with him the voice would never go away and keep berating her for being selfish and a coward. She knew that he would never phone her first. He was stubborn at the best of times and as far as he was concerned it was up to the guilty party to make the first move in times of any conflict. Of course he was never the guilty party! Maggie remembered the fall out with the neighbours over who should replace a fence panel that separated their two houses when it blew down in a storm. Gordon was adamant that it wasn’t their responsibility when it turned out that it actually was. The neighbours eventually gave up and replaced it but they were never invited to join them fora pre-Christmas sherry again.
When did she turn from the confident, bright and fun loving person she used to be to the invisible, drab and placid woman she had become? Where was the woman who danced on tables, skinny dipped in the Aegean sea and laughed and sang and loved life?
Where was the real Maggie Thornden?
Oh for fucks sake, let’s get this over with.
Gordon had run out of clean shirts and was getting more and more frustrated with his attempt at ironing a freshly laundered one. He’d always insisted that Maggie should buy pure cotton shirts but he hadn’t realised that they creased so badly in the wash. How on earth did Maggie cope with ironing five every weekend? What Gordon had failed to do was put water in the iron and had left it on the warm setting!
When the landline phone rang he abandoned the ironing and rushed to the hall stand to pick it up before the caller rang off. Normally he ignored it as most of the time it was somebody trying to flog conservatories but there was a chance that it could be Maggie, especially as it was Sunday morning and it was unlikely to be a cold caller.
“Gordon, it’s me.”
Gordon was momentarily lost for words. It was so good to finally hear her voice again.
“Gordon, are you there?”
“Shit, hang on. Don’t put the phone down!” Gordon dropped the receiver and rushed back to rescue his shirt from the iron that he’d abandoned when the phone rang.
“Sorry about that. Nearly had a disaster with the iron!”
“You’re doing the ironing?” Maggie sounded surprised.
“Well, it might not have occurred to you that I go back to work tomorrow and jobs like ironing still need doing whilst you are swanning off doing God knows what in bloody Cornwall!”
“I’m not in Cornwall, I’m in Devon.”
“I don’t care if you’re in Timbuktu. The point I’m making is that you aren’t here where you should be!”
“To do the ironing by any chance?” Suggested Maggie. Gordon thought he noted a hint of sarcasm in Maggie’s voice which took him aback somewhat.
“That’s not what I meant, but yes now you’ve come to mention it, yes, to do the ironing. The ruddy thing isn’t working properly. You never said that it was playing up.”
“It isn’t, wasn’t. Have you got it on the right settings?”
What was he thinking, he had been out of his mind with worry since Thursday and here he was talking about ironing!
“Forget the ironing, I think I jolly well deserve an explanation. One minute we are having a nice day out together at Land’s End and the next thing I know you’ve disappeared and I’m thinking you’ve fallen into the sea. Have you the faintest idea how embarrassing it was to discover that you weren’t in danger but had hopped on a bus? I had called out the coastguard, probably at great cost to the tax payer, for no reason at all. It was totally irresponsible of you Margaret to put people’s lives at risk like that. I think that you owe the coastguard an apology for wasting their time and one to me for making me look like an idiot in front of all of those people!”
“I’m sorry that there the coastguard was called out unnecessarily and the embarrassment it caused you Gordon but what made you think that I’d fallen into the sea in the first place? After you went off on your own I walked along the coast path for a bit but then the wind took my scarf which was really annoying as it was one of my favourites, so I decided to go and wait near the car park.”
“And you got so bored of waiting that you thought you’d go home by bus. That’s just so typical of you Margaret, just considering yourself and not considering how it makes me look.”
There was a pause at the other end of the line. Eventually Maggie spoke, her voice sounded shakey ”It wasn’t like that at all Gordon.”
“Oh for Pete’s sake Margaret, don’t start blubbing. You know that I can’t abide crocodile tears.” Why did she have to resort to turning on the water works every time there was some sort of confrontation? If she were a man he would tell her to grow a pair and stop being such a wimp.
“I’m going to go now Gordon. I’ll speak to you soon.”
“That’s it do what you always do when the going gets tough. Play the “poor little me” card and run away from the situation. Well fine, if you haven’t the gumption to talk to me like a grown up then I don’t want to talk to you either.” And with that Gordon ended the call and went back to finish ironing his shirt none the wiser as to why Maggie had got on the bus or where she was or when she intended on coming home!
Maggie couldn’t decide whether she was cross or upset about the phone call. Silly her for thinking he might be concerned and tell her how much he missed her and plead for her to come back home. She had known her husband long enough to know that he believed it to be a sign of weakness to show any signs of caring. He had every right to be angry with her. She had let her emotions get the better of her at Land’s End and it had been wrong to not contact Gordon sooner but she knew that he would get on his high horse and make her feel inadequate and silly. If she felt cross it was not with him but with herself for not standing up to him. It was all very well getting a new haircut and buying new clothes to get her to feel less drab, but she also needed to stop behaving like a timid little mouse. Easier said than done!
It was another beautiful day so Maggie decided to sit in what went for a beer garden at the back of the pub. There were a couple of rickety picnic tables that had seen better days on the patio where weeds grew between the paving slabs. A rusting swing and climbing frame stood forlornly on the grass that obviously hadn’t been cut for quite some time. The garden sloped away and there was no getting away from that amazing view. Apart from the quiet hum from the kitchen’s extractor fan and the distant sound of a tractor’s engine, it was just so peaceful. She spent the morning browsing on Instagram and posting views from garden. When Charles wasn’t looking she had sneaked a photo or two of her meal the night before and breakfast that morning. She had already received lots of comments asking about where she was eating such fabulous looking food.
Close to lunchtime Charles came outside carrying two large glasses full of golden coloured liquid.
“Thought you might be thirsty as it’s a bit of a scorcher so I’ve brought you a glass of locally made cider. Thought that you might like a bit of company too. I won’t be a bit offended if you tell me to sling my hook if you’d rather be on your own.”
Maggie smiled up at him. Charles was such a likeable man and a perfect host. “Thank you, that’s really thoughtful of you. Please, go ahead and sit down. I’d love to chat but surely you must be getting ready to open up the pub.”
She watched him struggle to slide himself onto the bench which creaked ominously under his weight. “I don’t bother to open up on Sunday as a rule. Not a lot of point when there’s not many customers coming through the door. It seems that everyone’s at home enjoying their Sunday lunches and not wanting to sit here sharing a bag of pork scratching when they can be eating crackling off of a nice piece of roast pork.”
Maggie took a sip of the cold cider. It was very good. “Charles, I’m so glad I found your pub. You’ve made me feel really welcome and your cooking is amazing. Don’t you get disheartened though on evenings like last night when there were only two customers?” Maggie wondered if she was overstepping the mark by saying how quiet the pub was. It really was none of her business.
Charles shrugged and smiled “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disheartened by the lack of customers. It’s hard to compete with the posh local pubs. Gastro pubs with rooms they call themselves. People seem to prefer pubs tarted up with fancy wallpaper and lighting. Don’t mind paying fancy prices too. I bought this pub with my late wife when we came into a bit of money. We had a dream of The Star being the hub of the community but when she died the dream died too. You see my Lucy had the vision and had a business head on her shoulders but all I’ve ever done was game-keeping and dabbling in the kitchen. The place is a bit of a wreck but in all honesty I really have no idea where to start when it comes to making improvements. I’m seriously thinking of selling up. I’ve heard that developers are keen to buy old pubs and turn them into apartments.”
“I’m really sorry to hear about your wife Charles. You must miss her so much and it must be tough trying to run this place single handed. It would be a real shame though if you were to sell up. I’m no expert and definitely not The Hotel Inspector but this place has so much potential. There’s you, your cooking and a view to die for. I’m sure your wife would really want you to keep the dream alive.” Maggie winced. Who was she to give advice to this man she only met yesterday? “Listen to me going on. Just tell me to mind my own business. I really hope that I haven’t offended you.”
“Not at all. To be honest it’s good to get someone else’s opinion. You’re right, Lucy would give me a right kick up the bum if she were here today. She could be pretty formidable at times and I owe it to her to get this place up and running. It’s been tough not having her here and I miss her bossing me around and making me laugh when we got daft together. There’s still money in the bank to get this place on it’s feet and I owe it to my Luce to stop moping,she couldn’t stand moping see,and make a go of it. But where to start?”
Maggie gave Charles a playful shove. “Well I’ve got a bit of a wait until that bus tomorrow so we could between us start making a plan if you like. I’m no expert by any means but sometimes two heads are better than one when it comes to decision making. Of course that’s only if you want my help. Tell me if you’d rather not have it. Honestly, I won’t be the least bit offended.”
Charles gave Maggie a playful shove back. “How about then I go and fill up these empty glasses, make us a couple of cheese and pickle sandwiches and find a note pad?” And with that he heaved himself off of the creaking bench and headed off back to the kitchen.
For the rest of the afternoon the two of them planned and plotted. Copious notes were written and now and again they would wander around the pub pointing out jobs that needed tackling. Charles would measure rooms whilst Maggie took down the measurements and in turn he listened to her suggestions. She set him up with social media accounts and they hunted out possible builders and pub refurbishment companies, although Charles was adamant that The Star wasn’t to end up gentrified and was totally against anything that suggested the word boutique!
As the sun began to set and their stomachs began to rumble, Charles returned to the kitchen to make the two of them omelettes and salad. Maggie sat with elbows on the table and her chin cupped in her hands. She could hear Charles whistling in the kitchen and the aroma of fried potatoes wafted from the open kitchen window. She felt woozy from the cider and warm sunshine and for the first time in a very long time she experienced a sense of achievement and what it felt like to be appreciated.