So – was I putting off meeting the TMK team? Possibly. Was I having so much fun on the road with Jo that I didn’t want to arrive anywhere and stop travelling? Certainly. But the sun was setting at Stonehenge. Jo looked at the map and the route to Cornwall. “Can’t be more than a hour’s drive. Relax”. I looked at the map, allowed for country roads and tourists and re-calculated. Three hours. Quick arithmetic while I worked out how I could make this work..”OK. We can do it in two hours” . A Le Mans start to the car and we were off. It was time for me to test my metal and drive towards the cliff.
Somehow, in the excitement of our day both lunch and dinner had been forgotten. We were surviving on coffee, laughter and adrenalin. As we headed west the roads were clear and they swept us gently to the coast. Wiltshire, Somerset and Devon slipped by and soon we were crossing the River Tamar. As we hurtled further into the Cornish countryside I noticed Jo moving closer and closer. The Cornish lanes with their high hedgerows and local drivers with both confident and razor’s edge accurate high speed manouevering were something of a shock. “Breath in ” we would shriek and open our eyes again in astonishment that the world was still the right way up.
My first visit to Cornwall and we were doing it in style. The very wonderful Luxury Family Hotels had offered to host this stage of our visit and as we pulled up to the beautiful Fowey Hall Hotel we breathed in the sea breeze and velvety evening air and relaxed. This lasted for about 3 seconds before we remembered that we were shockingly late. We tumbled down the hillside to Melissa’s house to meet the team. It was a still summer’s evening, undisturbed..except for the incredibly loud peals of laughter rattling round sleepily deserted streets. Jo and I glanced at each other..”I think we’ve found them”..
For reasons of discretion and friendship there are no photos from the rest of that evening. (Natasha told the story of the day here ) I remember sitting round the table in Melissa’s kitchen; tears of laughter streaming down my face. I remember letting go of my concerns and delighting in being with another group of friends formed on line (for until then we had not met as a group although we had been working on TMK together for a year and had launched without ever meeting) and that none of them seemed to be 50 something year old men sitting in their pants either. The relief was palpable.
The next morning an impressively together and businesslike group convened..first at breakfast ( I have never seen such an array of Canon equipment at a dining table)
while I started to catch up on some sensible eating and drinking! Melissa’s cream scones were divine. Business talk done. We headed off to enjoy Fowey. Armed with a real Cornish pasty (steak and stilton filling) we wondered down to the beach through a maze of tiny streets all the while bathed in warm Cornish sun.
The strangest thing happened that day of our roadtrip. Jo and I slept well, ate well and slowed right down. The Cornish effect? The calm of finally meeting the TMK collective? Whatever happened we enjoyed every second of it and the memories of eating a pasty with friends, getting the first grains of sand of summer between our toes, sunbathing, chasing Jordanna’s handsdome little Rocco around a Cornish cove and giggling immoderately whilst posing ridiculously for a group photo will last a very long time.
Astonishingly, Jo and I then left Fowey on time and enjoyed a sedate and relaxed drive back to Devon for our last Sept 05 meet. And what a meet it was! The air of calm, adult behaviour was tossed aside from the moment we rang Nicky’s doorbell. “YOU’RE HERE” “IT’S YOU” “I’M GOING TO GET MORE WINE”. Somewhere in the Devon countryside we rounded off our trip with the most joyous reunion and celebration you could imagine.
Nicky (who had the task of hosting us for the night) and Gill are firm friends who met on Sept 05. Nicky has recently moved back to Devon after years away and the joy she and Gill have in their friendship is one we all revel in. Kelly, one of the youngest members of Sept 05, but definitely one of the most mature joined us and is still giggling at our end of term antics that night. In our divinely mature way Jo and I had decided there were two ways to deal with the end of our trip the next day. Firstly, denial. Always good. Secondly, to have a fight so that we were glad to say good bye. Our attempts to start a fight became funnier as the night wore on. And became contagious. True friends are ones that you can insult. Blithely and repeatedly. Until you have to lie on the floor in order to have room to breathe. One of those nights. One of those nights I’ll remember forever. Thank you girls.
At 4 45 the next morning I thought Jo might do murder when my phone trilled happily at us. But we were saved by lashings of tea and plates of toast provided by Nicky who bravely got up with us and joined in with pretending to feel fine. As we pulled away from the house a last memorable vision of the pyjama clad Gill sprinting down the road to fling herself in through the open window and hug us goodbye remains with me. Luckily for Gill my camera was, for once, not to hand.
Bristol airport was the scene of our goodbye. Jo was flying out to Portugal to meet her brother Brock and I was flying back to Inverness to squeeze my little family harder than they have ever been squeezed. I didn’t cry as Jo walked out of sight into departures. And I’m not crying now. Not a bit.
Thank you to everyone for making this trip happen for us. Most of all thank you to Woody and Tom and Kate for letting me go and being so happy to have me back.
Images Love Skye Photography (and others. Disclaimer: camera swopping may have occured in Fowey!)