I dallied in Stirling for longer than I planned.
A slow puncture in the van delayed any plans that I had to return to Cornwall for Christmas.
Whilst I was sipping Port with Margaret, in her stifling front room, I thought of my team back in the restaurant in Cornwall pulling their hair out over huge Christmas orders and struggling to keep up with the checks. I’d not run a service in months now, my funds were somehow holding strong and I didn’t miss working.
I’d made another good friend in Margaret, a widow who had been getting by for years by letting out her spare room to the occasional guest. At 68, the winters in Stirling were starting to take their toll on her. The cold winds cut through her as she walked to the shops and she’d had a couple of slips which had put her in hospital in the last few years. She knew that it was time to move down south to warmer climes, but with no family to help her the process was daunting.
After returning from sorting the van out the tire I found her poring over a brochure that she’d received from a friend. The fold-out pamphlet was full of bright photos featuring homely looking bungalows, cheery old folks and lush countryside. I asked her if she’d like to move there, she simply sighed in a way that suggested that the idea was impossible – she told me that she was resigned to her life in Stirling. I liked it when Margaret gave herself into melodrama, she seemed to revel in her sadness sometimes, although she always did so with a wry sense of sarcasm.
This seemed like as good a time as any to break the news that I’d be leaving at the end of the week.
I could tell that she was disappointed. She tried to hide it, but I knew that she’d come to rely on my company and that with my absence, she would once more be waiting for another guest to fend off her loneliness. I thought about hitting the road back to Cornwall – the long road stretched out in front of me. Nearly 600 miles of barren lay ahead of me and I really wasn’t ready to go back to work.
“I could give you a lift there?”
Her head perked up. There were static caravans for sale on site, the brochure said as much, and she had the capital to buy one out right, there was even a young couple eager to take the guesthouse business from her. She was silent for a second, as she slowly came round to the concept: the dramatic change of scenery, the new neighbours. A flash of worry passed over her face before her features became set in what can only be described as a grim expression of determination.
“Let’s do it.”