Goodness me it’s grim up North [by up North I mean here, where I am, which is significantly more north than where some people are.] It’s freezing. Although warmer than last week. Last week i was sat at mey desk in several layers, one of which was a Fat Face hoody and another of which was a snowboarding standard bodywarmer. I was also wearing sheepskin lined boots and gloves, had the heating on 5 and a fan heater pointed right at me and I was still unbelievably cold. Last Thursday night I babysat for Daisy, I bet I was there for all of 4 hours and I still had to de-ice my car before I could go home. Nothing about any of this is fine.
Speaking of Daisy she gets cuter by the minute. Last week we played with the camera. I really wanted a photo of the two of us; a nice smiling picture of me and my niece would be lovely on my office wall. Daisy was having none of it. To her it was all a big game, let's see how many funny faces I can make Auntie Jo pull: ‘say cheese Daze,’ ‘show Auntie Jo your prettiest smile Daisy,’ ‘like this Daisy *I smile* see, you do it’ ‘Daisy, smile.’ I think out of about 12 pictures I got one where we're both smiling. Then yesterday we met up with some other friends with small children at a farm. Daisy had a donkey ride. Two donkey rides actually and it was the cutest thing because she's so small and she was sat there bouncing up and down on this donkey [his name was Patch] all 'giddy up, giddy up.' Adorable.
In April 2011 Helen and I fell in love with Major Pettigrew. If you haven’t read the story of the retired Major and his friendship with his Pakistani neighbour, Mrs Ali, gorgeously detailed in Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, then I suggest you rectify that post haste.
This December I fell in love with Harold Fry.
Helen hasn’t read about Harold’s unlikely pilgrimage just yet, but I know when she does she’ll fall in love with him too. I challenge anybody who doesn’t have a heart of stone to not read this book and come away just feeling better.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry tells the story of 65 year old Harold, distanced from his wife and having not heard from his son in 20 years, he’s recently retired and he’s at a bit of a loose end when one day he gets a letter from an old colleague and friend, Queenie. She’s sick, dying of cancer and she wanted Harold to know; the letter is her goodbye. Harold scribbles a hasty [and what he feels somewhat lacking] response and heads out to post it, reaches the post box and just keeps going. He needs to save Queenie, he needs her to not give up, he needs something tangible to focus on and somehow the belief that his walking from Devon, to Queenie in Berwick on Tweed will save Queenie’s life becomes it. He walks and he walks and he walks, in his boat shoes, to save the life of a woman he used to know and it’s the most wonderful, touching, real story. It made me laugh and it made me ache and it made me believe too. I rooted for Harold all the way: I wanted it to work, I wanted him to make it, for Queenie, for himself.
Reading this felt a little like huddling under a favorite blanket on a winter day but as well as that, this book is a lesson. It’s undeniably emotional and sentimental but not tooth-rottingly so, and it’s a story about human nature I guess, about love and loss, friendship, kindness and self-value. This is a glorious book, and I am so so glad I took this walk with Harold Fry. I feel better because of it.
[Apparently Jim Broadbent reads the audiobook. I bet he’s the perfect Harold….]