Saturday, October 20, 2007

Tuesday October 16, 2007 – 06:35

The scared landlady

I stretch and shake my stiff shoulders. The train rocks gently, wheezing and whining its way through the Cornish countryside. My face aches –I’ve been grinding in my sleep again. Not surprising since I had been scrunched up for the last six hours, clinging onto the buck to stop myself rolling out whenever the train turned a corner.

Unlike my prospective landlady for the next few days, the sleeper staff are manically cheerful – nothing is too much for them. They are kind and practical. My mind turns to replay the “difficult” phone conversation with Mrs B and B the evening before. There couldn’t be a greater contrast.

“My husband tells me that you’re blind” she starts, her voice thinned with anxiety. I sigh and take a deep breath.

“Yes that’s right,” I force reassurance into my voice. My stomach begins to wriggle, “oh-oh” I think to myself.

“But how will you be able to manage” she wails, her voice rising in panic.

I imagine her imagining herself, eyes squeezed shut, hands outstretched, stumbling through the newly foreign landscape of her house, its familiar contours hidden beyond her closed eyes. She shuffles along in terror – fear fuelled by ignorance or a too-vivid imagination.

“Hey, I’ll be fine” I breathe, calm reassurance lacing my voice.

“Can you see at all” she plunges forward blindly, so to speak. My stomache flaps with despaired, she’s not going to like the answer. I contemplate lying but can’t bring myself to do so.

No, but I stay in a lot of strange places” I say brightly, hoping my smile can be heard and she doesn’t take the bit about staying in strange places the wrong way.

“But there’s ten steps and one in the middle of the corridor” she moans – as though this is absolutely the last straw. My inner mule sets all four feet down purposefully and sticks his head forward.

“I’m going cliff walking you know. I’m hardly going to find your steps a problem.” I try to dampen the crossness in my voice – losing my temper won’t get us anywhere especially as my inner mule has just caught a glimpse of hers!

“Yes but” She counters – “you wont’ be by yourself on a cliff will you?” I can hear her almost framing the question … “Can’t you bring a friend – or better still, not come at all?”.

I decide that perhaps when she sees me she won’t feel so bad. At least she’ll be able to count the fact that I’ve only one head and am, like many other blind people, quite capable of getting round a small house without mishap. I suggest that we discuss it when I get there, tell her I’m looking forward to meeting her (like hell I am) and hope that her husband isn’t as freaked out as she is.

A knock on the door brings me back to the here and now. A cheerful steward hands me a cup of tea and proffers a contraband bacon sandwich – which I refuse with much thanks and explanations of my long-standing vegetarianism. I wish him joy of his sandwich and make ready to leave the train.

On this, my penultimate journey in this year and a day pilgrimage, I am returning to West Cornwall , to wander amongst the fogous, standing stones and wells of West Penwyth, ready to encounter the goddess in all her forms. I am impatient to get started.

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