You know how it is. You go to sleep without an apparent care in the world. Then you wake up and realise you have lost your debit card. A series of images stream through your brain in a fraction of a second. A speeded up lottery winner montage from a Hollywood movie. A faceless person buys a motorhome, jetski, Nebuchadnezzar of champagne and a well-endowed sheep in quick succession. You would cheer them on if only they weren’t draining your account for their own benefit.
Who amongst us hasn’t dreamed of buying their own well-endowed sheep with someone else’s money?
Naturally I panicked. Someone was blowing our savings on Winnebagos while I was having unsettling dreams about sheep. I mentally retraced my whereabouts from the day before. I had definitely used the card in the Post Office. I had then used it in a rare moment of profligate spending in Marks & Spencers (on Greek style yoghurt, to be exact). Then I had cycled home in my newish joggers whose pockets are a little too shallow. It must have fallen out as I jolted my way over the hazardous pot holes of Worcester city. Buried deep in my mind brain I was certain I had cunningly “put it somewhere safe”. So safe I couldn’t find it despite turning the house upside down in my search.
The card was so worn out that the contactless feature no longer worked outside of Marks and Spencers. Their contactless payment must be set to the highest sensitivity so you aren’t allowed a moment’s regret at purchasing a ruinously expensive bag of spuds. Of course this did nothing to lessen my fears we were going to be left in the poor house as the result of a Gastropub ready meal and comfortable lingerie spending spree. We could have been a single West Country Rhubarb Fool away from penury.
The author of our demise.
I eventually had to admit that I would never see the card again.
After calling the bank I was reassured no one had bought a gold-plated lavatory on our account. I stopped panicking and ordered a new card. The timing wasn’t great as we were about to go on holiday early the following week and no one wants to handle plague-carrying pound notes anymore. I don’t know what hedge fund managers are using to snort mood enhancing pharmaceuticals nowadays but they’re probably not employing Jane Austen’s face on a rolled up tenner. Most likely they use the most fearsomely expensive paper known to man: sheets torn from a Moleskine notebook.
Fortunately the new card was delivered in time and I wouldn’t have to follow Phil around and politely ask her to buy everything for me. It would be embarrassing if she found out just how much I spend on Greek style yoghurt every week.
Several days later we are on holiday in Cornwall along with what feels like the rest of the UK population. We inevitably find ourselves at Land’s End, the most westerly point of England. The trip advisor reviews universally wail that it’s a rip-off. You can’t just rock up to a remote bit of scrubland, hop out of the car and take a picture next to the sign. Nope, you have to pay to park your car and have to pay again to have your photo taken with the Land’s End sign. The whole thing is a tacky outlet mall built on a beautiful promontory in an effort to extort money from tourists in the form of overpriced tea towels.
It’s a beautiful day in early September, the expected wind, rain and rolling fog is uncharacteristically replaced by warm sunshine and a light breeze. The weather is so good we can see land on the horizon. Being those kinds of people we then debate what that landmass could be. Our daughter suggests that it is the Scilly Isles. Phil thinks that it might be France. We then squabble over whether that part of Northern France is Normandy or Brittany. I believe it’s Normandy because, following an eccentric logic all my own, I once attended a comics festival in Saint-Malo.
I swear that if I squint very hard I can see the Statue of Liberty. My family snort at the idea that even on an exceptionally clear day I can see all the way across the Atlantic. I maintain it could be the 1886 symbol of freedom, that or macular degeneration.
It’s eventually confirmed that what we can see is the Isles of Scilly, only thirty miles away. It’s amazing what you can learn if you bother to read the information signs handily provided five feet away. Our daughter is proved correct again. With everything set right with the world we can return to the car and head back to our holiday let, overburdened with tea towels.
The Scilly Isles, on a clear day.
It’s only as I put the car into reverse that I notice something has slipped down the side of the driver’s seat. Set on it’s edge it is barely noticeable, but here, at the furthest reach of the nation, it catches my eye. I fish it out and frown for a moment, squinting at my old debit card.
And don’t forget, The Book Tour is available for pre-order from the places you pre-order from.
Saint-Malo is, of course, in Brittany.