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Cornwall Day 0 & 1

Around 7pm on Sunday evening we left for Cornwall. I knew it would be a long trip, but we had planned to stay the night in Bristol as we had 2 stops to do whilst in the city. Whilst we were still near to Haddenham we tried a few petrol stations to find a propane gas canister for the van. Unfortunately we couldn’t find any, so we decided that we’d look for one when in Cornwall, rather than to keep trying petrol stations as it made the journey very stop/start. The sunny weather continued, and the traffic was nice and clear on the roads. Being a 3 and a bit hour trip down to Bristol felt manageable, but I noticed my epididymitis pain starting to flare up after an hour or so sat in the van.

Shortly before we got to Bristol we stopped off at Gloucester services and bought some chocolate/marshmallow teacakes and some coffee eclairs. Being a motorway services, the prices we extortionate, but the food was good. On the savoury side of things, Meg got a “Black Watch” scotch egg and I got some sort of Mac & cheese slice. Mine was a little bland, but Meg really enjoyed hers. It was quite a scotch egg - massive it was. Felt good to stretch my legs, use the facilities, and also marvel at the rather wonderful architecture of the motorway services building. It was slightly built into the earth, and had a bit of a hobbit house flavour to it.

It was evening when we got to Bristol. First stop was to drop off some tools at Robert’s house. He is one of Meg's archaeology friends and we'd collected his tools several days previously in order to drop them off to him at home in Bristol. He lived in a lovely looking house in a nice area. Meg declined his multiple offers to come into the house for a drink and a chat. The fact he asked 4 or more times felt a little cloying, but I can understand why he’d want to spend time with Meg - I’ve told her several times that she has a great energy and I think it draws people in. Besides, Robert was having a night in, and I'm sure some company would've felt nice. Personally, I was a little relieved that we didn't stop off, as I think we were both in travel mode, and wanted to get the second collection done.

In the end we only stayed 5 minutes or so, and then we set off to meet one of her brother’s friends to pick up a hi-fi amplifier. It took 15 minutes or so to get to another part of Bristol, and we parked the van up momentarily whilst I got out to grab the amp. Afterwards, Meg decided she wanted to keep on driving and continue on the next leg of the journey down to Cornwall, rather than parking up for the night. So we made our way back onto the motorway to hammer out the last 3 and a bit hours of the trip. ETA was gone midnight, and Meg told me we'd be parking up in a car park near the beach in Durgan. I was quite excited, but also a little apprehensive that Meg had a lot of driving to do, and it was getting late. Still, she's a very safe driver, and she assured me she knew her limits when it came to driving.

I had wondered if sitting down for a prolonged period was going to be comfortable. Usually with a long drive my bum starts to ache, and then my legs and the discomfort grows. After my epididymitis was starting to flare up, I was a little concerned it might escalate, as it had done when me and Meg sat on the swinging seat in my parent's garden for several hours. That chair also set off a flare up and the aches were quite fierce for a few days after. Initially, all I felt in the van was some minor discomfort in the usual groin area. But as the flare up continues it escalates into an odd mix of dull, dragging and often overpowering pains. I always say it's like being kicked in the balls. It's a highly unpleasant experience, and the fact it’s in the groin area seems to make it even more draining and rather unnerving to experience. When we were about 30 minutes from the end of our journey, the pains ramped up and I was really struggling. Problem is, being vocal and visibly showing you're in pain/distress is something that really brings down an atmosphere. I didn't want to make Meg feel unhappy, but I was struggling to bottle up the pain. The fatigue of the journey is obviously a lot harder on the driver, and yet - I was exhausted as well, and the pains were a bit too much to handle at that point.

Looking back though, it was a minor discomfort for most of the evening, and I'd been fine all day. Sure, from 1am it ramped up, but I get through it. I always do.

We parked up in a car park near a beach at Durgan. Meg took Luckly out for a quick walk and then we got ready for bed. She apologised for being a little frazzled, but I understood perfectly. 7 odd hours of focus on driving is enough to frazzle anyone. I was mighty impressed and thankful that she was able to do the trip in one. Whilst it was 01:30 in the morning, we’d managed to get to Cornwall a day ahead of schedule. Rather wonderful if you ask me.

I was a little apprehensive about getting to sleep as I still hadn’t quite mastered sleeping in the van yet. The sofa bed’s length is the width of the van, and being 6’4” means I have to lie in the foetal position, or diagonally to try and stretch my legs. Still, that night I got to sleep fine - and I was of the opinion that eventually I'd adapt to falling asleep in the sofa bed. In fact it’s not so much the falling asleep that is problematic now, it’s the fact that once I wake up - I can’t often fall back asleep. Mind you, Meg does seem to wake up now and then when I'm moving and getting comfy. This sometimes leads to a cuddle, eskimo kiss or a smooch. It's a wonderfully tactile way to wake up. Also, I've been getting by on less sleep than I used to. Previously I aimed for 7-9, but it seems I can go on several hours less - which means more time spent awake. Flawless logic.

In the morning we took Lucky for a walk around the woodland near the car park. The view out to sea was marvellous, and we were fairly high up, which provided a breathtaking horizon. The woods were old and I noticed many large, coniferous trees that had clearly been there for many centuries. Their trunks and roots were titanic. I felt privelaged to walk amongst them in all honesty. A lot of houses were built with local stone, and gave off a wonderful essence. Something felt right at home here - it was very captivating.

After we’d taken Lucky for a walk, we headed back to the van and got our swimming stuff. This would be the first time I’d swam in the sea since Blackpool. Back when I was a kid I got stuck in some sort of sinking quicksand scenario which set off my fight/flight and I briskly left the water. After that, I only ever swam in pools. Even then, those days ended in my mid-teens, and swimming at Durgan was the first time swimming in the sea for over 20 years.

It was cold, but refreshing after the initial shock to the system. I felt a little overwhelmed, but the water was calm and clear. Also, I knew that Meg loved to swim - and I didn't want to hold back. Dive right in so to speak. We’d bought a pair of goggles each prior to getting to Cornwall, and it was helpful to know that I could see underwater. Never was able to without goggles. In pools it stung, and in the sea - I’m not sure. It all just felt like blurry, stinging pressure. Not something I ever managed to acclimate to.

Wasn’t long before my teeth were chattering. The temperature was quite a challenge, as was swimming for any length of time. I fear my endurance is quite lacking with swimming. I'm fine with walking, staffing and cycling - but revisiting swimming as an exercise is still very new to me. Seems I wasn't keeping mobile enough and I ended up shaking and chattering when the cold began to take over. I'm a skinny guy, and I guess it doesn't take long for a drop in body temperature to trigger the usual bodily responses. Meg noticed and suggested I get out and she continued to swim for a bit longer. Once I was on the pebble coast, I felt the shaking increase. Whilst the sun was out, and it felt balmy before entering the sea - at that moment in time I felt the need to swiftly get dressed to try and warm up. In the end, I only really started to warm up once we were walking back uphill to the van.

After our swim, we arranged to meet Meg’s ex, Paul at the boatyard. The drive down was very sunny, and I started to witness more of the skinny Cornish roads. Narrow, winding roads with steep sides. Rock and boulders at the base and overgrown with all sorts of plant life that makes the sides and road into quite a pronounced valley shape. Meg is a safe driver, and one of the few times I feel safe when a passenger in someone’s car. Not that it’s an overbearing fear, but it usually makes me feel tense when I’m not in control of a vehicle. But the blind corners, and the width of the roads does make things feel a little awkward. Anxiety built at times during our stay in Cornwall, but other drivers were courteous for the most part, and many made way in passing places for us to get past. Meg's politeness certainly extends to her driving habits too - and it was charming to see.

We pulled up to the local shop in Gweek before we met Paul. On the walk over to the shop, Paul arrived in his van. It was a big, dark green LWB van. All converted to live in like Meg's is. It was quite an impressive site to see, and I was inspired and curious to see what style and design he'd gone for.

I felt nervous because this was Meg's recent ex. Even though I know the break up was ammicable, and a long time coming - it's still going to create a degree of awkwardness. I say "it's" when in reality, I'm the only one creating tension inside. Truth be told he seemed like a nice guy. Very energetic and extrovert, and yet I had some pre-conceived opinions of him from what Meg had told me. Still, it was a blank canvas of sorts - because this was our first in person meeting, and it all seemed warm and friendly enough.

We bought Cornish pasties in the shop and then headed over to the boatyard. We chatted and moved bits out of Meg's van that belonged to Paul. Various tools and other bits and pieces. I got chatting to his friend Rosie who was in the van with him when we met outside the shop. She was petite and had a lot of tattoos. Her temprament was warm and intelligent. Both Paul and Rosie felt very inviting, and paired with the sunny weather and pretty surroundings - I felt like things were off to a decent start. Of course there were occasional moments of internal tension and worries, but I was trying to remain present and in the moment of my surroundings - rather than getting riled up with "what if's", which were merely fictional fears.

Whilst at Paul's, we climbed onto his boat and I also got to see his van. All of it was exciting to see, and I felt more drawn into the lifestyle that many of Meg's friends were into. Still, I felt somewhat "out of the frying pan, into the fire". Certainly everything was new to me, both with Meg, socialising with her friends and visiting Cornwall. This was all uncharted territory, and navigating it was starting to drain me. When we drove away from the boatyard I felt myself starting to sink a little. Me and Meg talked on the way to Church Cove - where we were meeting her good friend Kate, her new partner, Biff, and their friend Auburn.

I told Meg that being around extrovert people can drain me. Keeping up with Paul's energy was one of the struggles that Meg had spoken of previously. I too can struggle with extrovert energy, and yet I have a lot of energy and extrovert tendancies buried away inside. I guess it's just a lot to process when someone is quite intense. Mind you - I've just realised I'm basically describing living inside my own head. Fatigue can certainly set in.

We parked up in a Pay & Display car park by the coast. We couldn't agree on who should pay for the parking ticket. We ended up play fighting whilst trying to be the person to put their money into the meter, rather than the other person. I enjoy playful moments, and it's a wonderful way to lose yourself. Once back in the van we rested up for 5-10 minutes. I needed a brief time out after how drained I'd started to feel. I knew that the day ahead was going to be busy. Whilst at Paul's I learned that he would be attending a get together occuring at Kate's place later this evening. It made me feel a little uneasy. I know the atmosphere was civil, it still had me feeling somewhat out of place. After all, I was being introduced to a circle of friends, and whilst I seem to leave a good impression on most people I meet - it does start to run down my social battery.

Our cuddle in the van was lovely. I started to feel calm, although I was still rather fretful about another swim in the sea, and with a group of new people. We got ready and headed out - leaving Lucky in the van. Thankfully, with the insulation and skylights and windows - it remains very cool. Outside the sun was very warm. Early afternoon sun had me repeatedly putting on sun cream. Partly because my skin felt uncomfortably warm, but also as a stim of sorts. Something to keep me busy, whilst allowing me to rub my skin in such a way to not come across as too out of place.

We met on the beach and then headed to get an ice cream. Meg forgot to bring a towel, so I offered to go back to the van to get it. We're both helpful people, and so when we help one another, it can sometimes make us feel awkward - because WE want to be the helpful person, not the person being helped. I guess that's how it works. It's sort of a charming thing to disagree and feel awkward about. Yet, being a people pleaser is likely touching upon the Fawn Response.

Still, the walk back to the van on my own felt calm. I could be alone with my thoughts. A brief moment of calm before I went back into socialising mode. I forget who paid for the ice cream, I think it was me - but again, Meg felt a little awkward in me offering. I went for rum & raisin (2 scoops) and Meg went of 1 rum & raisin and 1 jaffa cake. It'd been a long time since I'd had rum & raisin - but it was well worth the wait. On the way to the other side of the beach we walked through the grounds of an old church, briefly stopping inside, and then climbing down the edge of the graveyard, down a small rock face and onto the beach. One thing I was noticing about Cornwall was how steep and rugged a lot of paths to and from locations were. Certainly "rustic" and a little sketchy at times.

The sun on the beach was hot. I was struggling to make much conversation - and the heat was really stifling. Meg briefly tried to put a towel over me and her to shield me from the heat. But it felt rather awkward, and the breeze was making my clumsy attempts to shield from the sun feel even more futile. Whilst it was amusing, I was starting to get a little concerned that I was cooking under the sun.

The group decided to go into the sea. Initially the coastline was shallow, but it had large rocks on the sand and it was hard to make them out whilst wading into the sea. I tripped and quickly realised there were a lot of rocks in the water. I was as careful as I could be, but I was stubbing and scratching my feet, whilst also tripping and losing balance at times. Tension was mounting. Obstacles, weeds and such like are the exact reason why I don't like open bodies of water. But I stood firm, and carried on wading in. I think there was a sandbank, because the water got deeper and then shallower - even though you were walking away from the beach. The waves had everyone in a playful mood, and we'd jump and allow the wave to lift us up higher - or swam under or away from waves as the were about to hit. Whilst I was initially enjoying the experience - the cold set in rather swiftly yet again. I began to tremble and Meg suggested again that I leave the water if I was feeling uncomfortable. I was stubborn in wanting to stay, and yet I couldn't control or lessen my trembling.

I made my way slowly back to the shoreline, whilst feeling deflated and like a bit of a failure. A repeat pattern in life of being the first to leave social moments and events. Rather than it being for the usual reason of burn out - in this case it's because my body wasn't handling the cold very well.

On the way back to the beach I really struggled with the rocks on the shoreline. I was stumbling, cursing, mumbling and anxiety and strain was building. When I got out of the water I looked back to see the 3 of them still enjoying the water. Once more - I felt undone. I headed back to where we'd left our towels and items. A spot that I'd glanced back at 3 or 4 times whilst in the sea, for fear it was an opportune spot for someone to steal things. Nothing had been stolen of course - but it's just the way my brain processed potential (fictional) (non-)issues.

Drying off didn't help me warm up much at all. Even under the warm sun - I couldn't stop trembling. I felt rather embarressed in case passers by were noticing. I got dressed, but really struggled with how coarse and gritty the sand on the beach was. It was abrasive on my skin and was getting everywhere. As I got dressed I realised this would probably be irriating my skin for the rest of the day, but I had to warm up. Even once fully dressed - and wearing a knitted jumper (on a hot summer's day), I was shaking uncontrollably.

Breathed a short sight of relief as I saw the group making their way back towards the beach not long after I'd left. I tried hard to stop the trembling as I didn't want to draw attention to myself - says the 6'4" man with tattoos and piercings. Still, the anxiety from the sea and cold had me feeling quite self conscious and embarrassed.

After a group chat on the beach we headed back to the car park. Meg's friends checked out her van conversion and decoration, as things had radically changed since they'd last seen it. Afterwards, we agreed to meet at Kate's later in the afternoon after doing a food shop. We drove to the supermarket and tried a petrol station for a gas canister for the van. No luck, but Paul and Kate had given us a lead for a wood and gas place nearby.

The supermarket wasn't too busy - and yet it is a place of sensory overload if I'm not feeling secure in myself. What with the long drive the night before, the 2 sea swims, meeting 5 new people and the hot weather - I was starting to feel a little frazzled. Thus, the bright lights, crowds, noise, endless shelves of colours, shapes and patterns was slowly eating away at my brain. I tried maintaining focus and presence, so as not to seem too withdrawn. Meg and I can read each other's eyes and can tell when we're drifting away into ourselves. Normally a sign of overthinking or fretting. Whilst I appreciate that people can read my fretting from my facial expressions - in a way it feels a little invasive when people realise. Not to say it's wrong to notice someone not feeling right, but it does add to the artificial guilt with mental health struggles. The desire to hide away and get away from it all. The change in expression, body language and conversations when someone notices that you're not doing well. Of course we should embrace people wanting to help - it's admirable, and yet sometimes it gets twisted up in my head and becomes a burden. Why? Seems like such an illogical thought process, especially when I write it out like this.

We drove to Kate's after shopping and I saw the log cabin she'd built on the back of a tractor trailer. It was an impressive and quirky home - I was quite surprised how spacious and well built it was. After a brief conversation, we went to where Meg had parked up her van. Kate lived on a storage unit site, which also had caravans, workshops and a large field. We parked the van up in the field by the fire pit. I set about building a fire using tinder from Meg and wood from the wood storage next to the fire pit. I was surprised how the fire building went - it actually worked.

Felt calm doing the fire. Keeping busy - meant I was distracting myself from the mounting fatigue. I did feel like this was the calm before the storm. A brief respite where I could focus, and also help out Meg with some cooking prep. Before long, the owner Byron turned up in a Range Rover. It was another new person to me who Meg knew. They hugged and as he talked I noticed very little eye contact in my direction. His stories and demeanour made my inner critic really squirm. Started to deconstruct my self worth based off brief assumptions of who Byron was, what he'd done with his life, and somehow concluded he'd be better suited to be with Meg than I was.

More worries - more fatigue, and this was only the first of 11 or so people expected this evening. I was beginning to feel ropey. Not long after, Paul's van turned up. Gradually more and more people arrived, and before long a group of 10 or so were gathered around the fire. I was sat next to Meg, but I quickly noticed the usual sensory overload - too many people, too many conversations going on, too much for my brain to process. The busy road of conversation was becoming clogged, and I was struggling to find a cross the road and make any meaningful chit chat.

In the end I sparked up, and felt worse doing so. Now the sensory overload was going up a gear. I told Meg that I'd zone out and do some staffing. I did some staffing away from the group. Between the weed, the staffing and the mounting social anxiety - my heart started to go a bit mad. I took a few moments out where I rest my hands and head against the staff, so it takes a weight off me, and I can try and focus and calm down. It wasn't working though - I was feeling over the edge and a spiral was ensuing.

So I went into the van, sat on the sofa and eventually decided to start drawing. The noise and visuals of the group gathering continued to erode. I focused away from my anxiety and tried to express emotions in what I drew. Unlke my normal clean, smooth and slowly drawn elongated shapes and characters - I reverted to a scratchy, cross hatched and mangled way of outlining work. The faces and figures were quite tortured looking. Back to the tentacles and harrowing expressions. The shadow and the anxiety once again coming to the surface. The dark, hollow eyes of the beasties staring back at me.

Meg checked in on me multiple times whilst I sat in the van. I was surprised at how caring and understanding she was. Each time she came in, it felt like she illuminated the van and the atmosphere. Truly, she humbled me with how nice and calming she was. After an hour or 2 people had left, and she told me that only Kate was by the fire. I decided to go back out and we all chatted briefly, then Paul, Rosie and Biff joined us. I started to clam up again - it was too busy, and I was still struggling to process being around Meg's ex. Processing... Processing...

A lot to process that day. I was glad everyone had an early night. I apologised to Meg, and felt quite emotional by how my anxiety had ramped up, and I'd needed to hide in the van during a social event on the first day in Cornwall. In truth, I felt like it was a shaky start to a holiday, and a poor performance on my part. We could logically conclude it was because I'd gone outside my comfort zone multiple times in one day, but I still existed in a mindset of "shouldism" and assuming I should be capable of more.

More, more more. Until there's no more left. Then what? Sometimes those moments come up unexpectedly. Then you take a step back and realise that actually you've been pushing too hard for too long, and what might come naturally to some, isn't that smooth when you have certain mental health conditions.

Meg reminded me that I must do what makes me comfortable, rather than trying to live up to supposed expectations or beliefs I have in how I must be, or do, or socialise etc. I have to live for myself, and not make myself uncomfortable or burnt out by trying to do too much.

I think I gave her a back rub that night. Been trying to do as many as possible as it's a very sensual experience. She's vocal, and I like to make her feel good. It makes me feel good, but it also is sensual to the point of erotic. Several massages have led to us making love, and it's quite a natural and exhilerating transition from one to the next.

I'm glad that our intimate relationship exists quite removed from my usual inner critic or doubts. I am truly in the moment when we make love, and I know her and myself better in those moments than any other. It's basic, carnal and instinctual - and we click so well. It's been breathtaking and several times we've been stunned that it's the best we've ever had.

We're certainly lucky to have that sort of connection. I'm excited to explore it further.

Ed

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Raggamuffin
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