Twelve months after I left Australia
I found myself living in a run down 150 year old stone cottage in the Andalucian Mountains of Spain. I was living alone, and spending my days renovating the house. I was gripped by a case of homesickness, as seems to happen about every three months while I'm travelling, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I wasn't homesick for Australia. I was homesick for the small village in southern England where I spent the winter of 2003/2004, the only other place that has ever felt like home. So, two months after I left Bletchingley, I decided to construct this page. I dedicate this page of the Not So Savage Files to the wonderful people of Blethcingley and Redhill who made me feel like one of the family, and particularly to my friend Mai, who showed unbelievable courage and spirit during her awful battle with cancer while I was there. You're a champion Mai, and you touch the hearts of everyone you meet. I thank God that your strength and attitude pulled you through, and I look forward to keeping in touch with you until we are both old and wrinkly. Of course, I'll get there first!
I had landed in London mid December.
It was freezing cold, but of course that was no surprise. I was broke, my credit card had taken a walloping throughout my travels in North America, in spite of the fact that I rarely paid for accommodation or transport. The extraordinary cost of living in London was quickly pushing my credit card to its limit. Christmas came and went, and the new year was on its way. I visited Jo, a reader who had invited me to stay with her in Godstone, just south of London. That was when everything changed for me, and I'm eternally thankful to Jo for everything good that came afterwards.
I was desperate for work
, but even with all my friends and contacts around the UK, I'd been unable to come up with anything. The Savage Files project was looking like coming to a premature end. Then Jo introduced me to her friend Physh, who said that her parents were looking for someone to do a few days' decorating for them. I went to meet Pam and John and started work straight away. Physh also ended up getting me to paint a few rooms in her house. It was great to be working, but the small jobs were really only a short reprieve from my financial woes. While I was at Jo's I'd noticed a note in the little local post office- 'HELP WANTED RENOVATING OLD HOUSE'. I wrote down the phone number and before I knew it, there was three full months' work ahead of me. A small loft space above my boss' garage was my new home, and everyday my boss' housekeeper Mai would cook me a big hot lunch. As England plunged itself into a cold, grey winter, I hammered and sawed, plasterboarded, insulated, glazed, painted and landscaped my way through a three storey Victorian house, converting it into three separate flats. The work was hard but varied and rewarding as I saw the project start to take shape. I started early every morning, and often worked till late at night (I was going to say 'till after dark' but of course that was about three in the afternoon!) When I started the job, I worked fifty-one days straight, with just one day off.
As time went on
and my financial situation eased, I started to socialize more and more, and the people I met made my memories of Bletchingley some of my most cherished. I'm putting together a slide show to give you a bit of a picture of my special winter in Bletchingley.