Silly Saturday Short Story – Jolly Jumper

I was looking forward to a quiet Saturday when the doorbell rang. I only half opened the door, hoping to keep out the torrential rain and wind. On the doorstep stood a complete stranger, or at least it was hard to recognise who she might be with her head bowed and face concealed by the hood of her sodden coat. When she looked up, her expression was one of confusion.
‘Oh, er sorry, is your daughter in?’
I relaxed, pushing the door back another inch. ‘I think you must have the wrong house, I don’t have a daughter.’
‘Oh erm… is this The Lighthouse? Only I was a bit confused because it doesn’t look like the pictures and it isn’t very near the sea.’
Who was this stranger and what pictures?
‘It is only ten minutes walk from the cliff top’ I retorted.
And what business of hers what I called my house? It was a bit of a joke, my fantasy of living in a lighthouse on a rocky outcrop hadn’t quite materialised. The little featureless home in a row of similar houses could have been in any suburb anywhere, but I could walk to the sea; if my knee wasn’t playing up or the weather wasn’t too dreadful.
‘I don’t suppose mine is the only house called The Lighthouse, did you use SatNav?’
‘I came on the train.’
That explained her drowned rat appearance, a cliché, but she did actually look like a drowned rat; it was a good walk from the station. What was I supposed to do with her? She had an accent I couldn’t place.
‘I’m sorry I can’t help you, is it a friend or relative you’re looking for?’
‘I was sure this was the right place, Sandbourne, Wessex, I’m over in England for a writers’ convention in London next week.’
I felt a touch of sympathy for a fellow writer and a niggle of guilt that I had not invited her to put even a toe inside the door.
‘What a shame you have such awful weather for your day at the seaside, it might brighten up later. I hope you manage to find your friend.’
‘She’s a fellow blogger, I’ve never actually met her.’
A disquieting bell began to ring inside my head. I am a blogger, but who on earth would want to meet me in real life. Perhaps Sandbourne was full of bloggers who would welcome a visit, but I had no desire to meet fellow bloggers in real life. The whole point of blogging was surely to avoid people.
The woman blinked away large drops of water splashing down from my gutter. ‘She’s called Scribbletide, her blog’s called ‘To The Lighthouse’ … you know, after the Virginia Woolf novel.’
‘Yes, yes, I have read it, they never actually get to the lighthouse.’
Hmm, just like me, that’s why I called my blog that… I never get to the lighthouse. But how on earth had this bedraggled refugee from abroad found out where I lived and how long before she cottoned on that I no longer looked like that picture of me taken thirty years ago, nor do I live on Portland Bill. I could carry on feigning ignorance and hope she cleared off, but what if she told the rest of the blogging world the truth? No more Likes and ‘hugs’, no more followers. And I was intrigued, which of my thirteen followers was she?

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‘You had better come in, as long as you promise not to write a blog about me.’
With her dripping coat hanging over the kitchen chair and a mug of tea in her hands she looked a bit more presentable, but with no resemblance to any blogger I could think of.
‘So are you Scribbletide?’ she stared at me suspiciously.
‘Well it’s a long story… why don’t you tell me what your blog is called.’
‘Leaping into the Unknown, it’s my day today, my sixth birthday.’
It took me a few moments to cotton on. ‘Leap Year, 29th February today, your birthday, not a very exciting way to spend it. I don’t Do birthdays, but if you only have one every four years I guess it should be special. Do I follow your blog?’
‘Yes, all the time, I’m Jolly Jumper, you love my daredevil adventures.’
Now I knew why she did not look familiar, her blog persona was a cartoon superwoman who wore a colourful Scandiknit jumper. Her real self looked like she would get vertigo climbing a step ladder.

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I took her to the cliff top café for tea and a big slice of cake. She wouldn’t go near the edge of the cliff as she was scared of heights, but with the dreadful weather, we were happy to sit inside and chat. After seeing her off on the train back to London I went home to start my new blog post.
P1070246What a thrill today to meet a fellow blogger from over the ocean. My special visitor, Jolly Jumper, was dropped off by the Sandbourne Lifeboat and scrambled up the craggy rocks to knock on the door of my lighthouse. It was so windy I could hardly open the heavy wooden door…

Where Are We?

Are you sure you know where you are? I could say I live in Wessex, but Wessex has not existed for a thousand years. It was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in the south of Great Britain, from 519 until England was unified by Æthelstan in the early 10th century. But Wessex must exist because Thomas Hardy set his novels there… No, he used it as the name of the county in which his stories are set; corresponding approximately to Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire and Wiltshire.

But Wessex must exist because there is an Earl of Wessex.  Don’t worry if you get confused with all the titles the Queen has bestowed on her children and grandchildren, most of us do. In 1999, Queen Elizabeth II’s youngest son, Prince Edward, married Sophie Rhys-Jones. By tradition the monarch’s son receives a title upon marriage. Prince Edward became the first British prince in centuries to be created an earl, rather than a duke. His wife Sophie became The Countess of Wessex.

Many organisations, including the army, that cover the area of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire and Wiltshire use the name Wessex .

The ITV television series Broadchurch takes place in the Wessex area, primarily the county of Dorset. It features government agencies such as Wessex Police and Wessex Crown Court, and several characters are seen attending South Wessex Secondary School.

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I live in Bournemouth which is in Dorset… or is it?  Before it was founded in 1810 by Lewis Tregonwell, the area was a deserted heathland occasionally visited by fishermen and smugglers. Historically part of Hampshire, it joined Dorset with the reorganisation of local government in 1974, but it has always seemed to me to have little in common with real rural Dorset. Since 1997 the town has been administered by Bournemouth Borough Council. But wait, more changes are afoot Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council will be the unitary local authority for the district of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole that is to come into being on 1 April 2019. The three towns already form the South East Dorset urban connurbation. What will it mean for the locals? Most of us are expecting to pay more in rates and have more services cut. Bournemouth is a new town set between two historic towns with plenty of pirates. Poole has the second largest natural harbour in the world, Sydney, Australia has the largest. Our sea is Pool Bay. Christchurch lies round the corner separated by Hengistbury Head; in Bronze Age Britain this was an important seaport, there was a settlement here in the Iron Age. I wonder how they viewed their identity?

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But let’s zoom in. I live in Southbourne, the creation of Doctor Thomas Armetriding Compton, who set up general practice in Bournemouth in 1866 and could see the area’s potential as a health resort. The clifftop land here had been part of Tuckton Farm, purchased by Compton in 1871 and later developed by the Southbourne-on-Sea Freehold Land Company.

Local businesses consider they are in Southbourne-on-Sea, Southbourne Grove, thriving with interesting shops and eateries, has been nicknamed the Sobo Mile.

You can see plenty of my local area at my website.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-two-coastal-views/

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Now let us zoom out. I have never considered I come from anywhere in particular, having lived in lots of places. I was born in Middlesex, but it ceased to exist as a county in 1965. It stretched to Westminster many centuries ago, but London had finally swallowed it.

Our local borough may be getting bigger, but our horizons will narrow as Britain leaves the European Union, dark days for those of us who are Remainers. We shall all still be members of The Commonwealth and the English speaking world and The World, The Solar System and the Universe… as we used to write in our exercise books at school…

Do you know where you are, do you care where you are?