The thing about standing in the centre of our village with a pot of paint, paintbrush and ladder is not only do you become the subject of endless banter such as "it's going to rain in a minute" and "I like your moves Jo" (as I move my arm up and down) but every passing car assumes you know everything and are a public information service.
For those that don't know Mawnan Smith it is a bit 'posh'. Although we have lots of hard-working struggling families, we also have more than out fair share of millionaires. I don't know any of them personally, and they make sure I don't pop 'round for a cup of sugar, because they have gated long-drives with security technology keypads on the roadside. These privileged few overlook the Helford Passage and are a mystery to us commoners.
However, as I slaved away painting my own cottage (because I can't afford a team of workmen) I caught a glimpse of several of these swish individuals as they glided past in their shiny royal-like vehicles.
It was then that I reminded myself of the importance of "with food and clothing be satisfied". This was a trifle tricky due to fact I looked my worst in paint overalls and wellies and am on a diet. However, I embraced the general principle and reflected on the fact that wealth doesn't necessarily equate with contentment.
It was while I was deep in thought, and singing a hymn, that a rather spiffing, navy-blazered retired gentleman asked for directions. I'd already given several but was pleased to play the role of tourist information assistant. But this gentleman had a mission, he was using his retirement to fundraise for charity and was obviously aware, despite his apparent access to money (judging by the car), of those in need; he was planning a coffee morning and needed directions to the caretakers house to access the village hall.
Now for those who don't live in the countryside they will be unaware of the significance of such events. For those of us who don't have Starbucks and Costa Coffee on our doorsteps, and live in the middle of nowhere, the fundraising coffee morning is a bit of a social hub-bub. There is always a raffle and although many of the prizes can appear raffle after raffle everyone enjoys the chance to gain a bottle of plonk or box of chocs. There is invariably the chance to buy cheap greeting cards and the odd plant. I warned our fine-looking gent' that the post-office counter was already crammed with harvest auction, a choir concert, table-top sale, art class and talk by the history society but he marched with purpose to advertise his event.
It was after I'd directed several walkers to the coast path, admired a dog and made a polite 'jolly sound' in response to yet another mildly amusing quip that I spotted an elderly man shuffling down towards the post-office. I apologised for my ladder, paint pot and general clutter in his way. It was only a matter of moments before he passed again but his bag appeared to be empty. We then had a conversation that went something like this:
"Is the post-office shut?"I asked.
"I know. What day is is?"
"Thursday. What time is it?"
"That is strange. Do you need anything? Milk?"
"No I'm fine thankyou."
It wasn't until he shuffled up the hill that I realised that the post office and general stores is NEVER closed outside the stated opening times. Unless a major event such as death had happened then why would it be in darkness long after lunchtime? So off I went, with my Miss Marple persona ready, to take action. When I knocked the postmistresses door she opened it.
"Mrs Lugg," I said. "Are you alright?"
"Yes", she said.
"But the shop is shut".
Of course not wearing a watch, because I was painting, meant I hadn't realised the old boy's was an hour ahead of time. So no doubt not only do I look like a complete nincompoop, covered in paint, but I have behaved like one. The disadvantage about living in a village is that everyone will know I'm a twit and will remember I am for several generations. Thankfully, with food and clothes I am satisfied and am not trying to be voted on the parish council.