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Sunday, 24 April 2016

"The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill"

Not sure if it's rising up or plunging down
There's been a lot of talk this week about mortality: well, there's been quite a bit of it around. What with Victoria Wood and Prince falling off their perches, it has those of us of a certain age looking over our shoulders checking whether the Grim Reaper is hot on our heels. He wasn't, but then he wears soft leather soles and a Harry Potter cloak of invisibility: he's nobody's fool.

And this week it was the Queen's 90th birthday. "The Prince is Dead, Long Live the Queen."

I'm spending this weekend in Cornwall with friends who, in November, moved out of our road in Walthamstow to live the quiet life in Poundstock six miles from Bude. Stannah Stairlifts don't do much business in Cornwall since almost every property is a bungalow. I don't like them: although rationally there's nothing wrong with them. Especially down here where everyone is living on an acre plot. You don't need to build up: just out.

I think my dislike of single storied buildings originated from my childhood when we lived in one at the extremity of the then small village of Hangleton, outside Hove in Sussex. Behind our enormous back garden stretched the South Downs. From the front garden you had an uninterrupted view of Shoreham Harbour and the English Channel beyond. It is nothing like that now. It was as I was climbing down the steps (I could have been no more than four or five) leading from the bungalow's front door that I took quite a tumble...and ended up in hospital with meningitis. I'm sure the fall didn't help but I don't think it can be blamed for my inflamed brain. However, I have always linked an extremely dangerous illness and a long hospital stay on those steps and by association: bungalows.

Writing this I recall that my first serious girlfriend "Rosalind" had moved with her parents from a sensible two storey house in Shoreham to a newly built bungalow in Ovingdean just outside Brighton, on a 1960's estate: bare, bald and boring. I turned down a place at King's College, London because of her: except my parents, on learning I'd told the college I'd rather stay in Brighton with Ros and go to Brighton College of Technology, marched me up to London to appear before the Dean of the Science Faculty to explain why I had misguidedly turned down such a valuable opportunity to study at one of English finest colleges.

My romance with Ros, survived just one term as she hitched up with a local policeman shortly thereafter and I received a "Dear John" brush off delivered by her best friend. Rosalind being too cut up to tell me directly.

Here I am sitting in the conservatory looking out over a field of a back garden onto a hillside full of sheep and between the gap, I can glimpse the sea. The rooks are massing on the hill, no doubt having spied a dead or dying lamb, as the clouds amble majestically across a blue sky. It  is deadly quiet and, at night, war time black.
The parish church of St Winwaloe and full graveyard

Last night we went to the local Gildhouse built in the reign of Henry VIII and the focus of the small village of Poundstock.
The Gildhouse (recipient of EU funding)

It sits at the bottom of a valley next to an ancient church and its overflowing cemetery   - a new one was opened for business in 1994. There is a third, which is attached to the old Methodist Chapel; now a lovely home with the cemetery, which is still in use, as the back garden with quite a unique collection of garden ornaments. Three cemeteries in a village of 900 souls: a case of overkill to my mind.
The old chapel

Walking back last night in the dark you could not see your hand in front of your face. The sky was crystal clear and the stars were brilliant even though there was a majestic full moon low in the sky. And not even the sound of a barking fox or the hoot of an owl to bother the silence. It was magical.

This morning we went to the beach at Dunmouth. Spectacular rock formations and stratification. Imagine seeing that and still believing the earth was formed less than ten thousand years ago. You could almost feel the earth's crust buckling under enormous forces folding the rocks as if they were paper. In one place you could see the rocks rising skywards and then a little way along they plunged back down into the subterranean depths. Hugely impressive.

I'm doing very little, busying myself being as restful as I can be. Later an evening meal at a local restaurant, a deep, deep sleep. Tomorrow, up early and a car ride to Bodmin Parkway - such romance -  a train journey back to Paddington and dear old London town.

P.S. The missus is at home in Walthamstow looking after our very old cat. She'll have the opportunity to visit Chris and Greg in the near future and enjoy, as I have, a right royal Cornish welcome.

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