Moving fast

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2004

Today I had one of those 'moments' when the impact of a change in technology hits you. It's not the first. I was born in 1968 and believe me, there's been a few changes in technology since then. I remember, for example, our first colour TV – the green of the racecourse paddock, the vivid tones of the jockeys' silks. Then the telephone – we were late to adopt it as a family and I well recall the novelty of sneaking into the hallway to try out the attractions of the speaking clock and dial-a-disc. Fast-forwarding a couple of decades, my first conversation on MSN using a microphone and camera – the realisation that the person I was talking face-to-face and in real time to was in America (South Dakota, to be precise) – gave me a shock that was almost physical.

The same thing happened today, in a car park high above the vertiginous town of Fowey. We dug out the laptop and checked emails. As I sat there with the computer wedged up against the steering wheel of the car, a new one pinged in – offering me work. The (potential) client had found my CV via Google.

Think about this for a second. I'm on holiday. I'm footsore, cold, hungry and weary after completing a walk that had gone on longer – both in time and in distance – than had been planned. I'm covered in mud from when the path went through a cattle farm. It's dark, and I'm in a stange town I've never been to before, sitting in an almost-deserted car park. And yet, within seconds of someone hundreds of miles away deciding they might want me to work for them, I'm reading their words.

Incredible.

Away from the philosophical musings, today was a hard day – but a satisfying one too. We left late for Fowey, a town with a wide river estuary and strong links to Daphne du Maurier. In days gone by it was defended by twin forts in the estuary – today it was protected from visitors by roadworks that diverted unwary drivers into an industrial estate from which there was no escape except back into the roadworks. We circled them, exchanging 'what the fuck is going on?' looks with similarly confused drivers, until centrifugal force spat us onto the right road into town.

Once there bookcrossed in the du Maurier exhibition centre / TIC, we checked out the ferry we'll have to take later this year when we're on the coast path, and we set off west along the cliffs to visit a couple of coves that feature (suitably disguised) in du Maurier's Rebecca. When we reached the end of the outwards part of the walk I estimated we had half an hour of daylight left and 90 minutes walking ahead of us still, so I worked out an inland route back that took us onto the Saints Way, a path that crosses Cornwall from north to south and which finishes at Fowey. I figured, if we ran out of light I wanted us to be inland and not on a cliff.

In the event I'd been pessamistic and we had about an hour of light left – but I was right to the minute about how long it would take us to get back to the car. Fortunately the end of the walk was along streets and there was no danger – but we looked a couple of frights following an encounter with a cattle farm.

One thing you forget when you follow a coastal, cliff edge footpath is how much access in the countryside depends on farmers. Paths that forsake the coast and plunge inland frequently cut through farmyards and follow farm tracks. When those yards house cattle and those tracks cross streams and are regularly trod by thirsty herds, the result is mud. Deep, sticky, suspect mud in which you sink up to your ankles or beyond.

This less-than-engaging appearance killed any lingering plans involving restaurants that we might have had. The chances of visiting one were not great anyway: we were parked at the top of the hill above the town, all the restauarants are at sea level. Instead of braving the drop-and-climb we buggered off to St Austell and bought the ingredients of a stupendous Mexican meal at the Asda. It was 11.30pm by the time we'd got back to the cottage and cooked it, but who cares?

We'd earned it.

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I'm Andy Darley. Sometimes I want to say things. This is where I do it.