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Sometimes I have a weird, out-of-body experience that tips me off my axis into a parallel world. It happens when I find myself in unfamiliar territory thinking the sort of thoughts that don’t normally come to mind.

I had one of these weird moments this week when Geoff and I were walking up the unfeasibly grand steps to an unfeasibly grand house. We were so far, so very far, out of our normal milieu, that I couldn’t help remarking to Geoff that we could fit the whole of Hill Towers into the area taken up by the steps.

And then we entered the house. Yes, it was a parallel universe indeed, a place of great beauty, of achingly good taste and enormous proportions. Even the hall table was larger than any dining table I’ve ever sat at.

It was the sort of house to get lost in, to find a space for oneself, a room where no-one would think of looking, so that curling up with a book and undisturbed for ages was entirely possible.

There was so much space and the whole scale so enormous that there were even some areas that contained nothing. Imagine that! Not a single thing had been placed in these few square metres of blankness. No clutter had accumulated. No-one had seen fit to plonk something down because it needed somewhere to go or because there was a space so inviting it just had to be filled.

It was space by design. Clever that, I thought, and how very pleasing it is on the eye.

I think that’s the difference: a vast house has space for . . . well, space. And very lovely it looks. Normal mortals’ homes, such as Hill Towers, have not a square millimetre that isn’t cluttered and clamouring for breathing space.

The parallel universe of grand houses, the kind of Honey I Shrunk the Kids syndrome, is evident in most National Trust properties, when staircases and corridors reveal room after room that once would have been home for a family and its servants.

I love them for the social history they tell us. The kitchens are always fascinating and cause me to give thanks that my cooking tribulations are now, in the 21st century, and not in the days of intense physical labour over a hot stove or a butter churn.

I like to see the children’s toys, too, and speculate about whether a well-worn rocking horse fired a passion in any of its little riders enough to give them hours of pleasure in a real saddle as they grew older.

Recently, Geoff and I visited a National Trust house whose 50-plus rooms had last been lived in by the erstwhile owners 70 years ago. Among the many intriguing artefacts on show was a typewriter, one of the clackety-clack sit-up-and-beg sort that required a straight back and well-positioned hands to operate. The first newsroom I worked in had one, in a dark corner, as though it had been forgotten in a clear-out.

Behind it, her crone-like hands poised over the keys, sat Phyllis, a woman of about 80 who always wore a brown ensemble, a shapeless hat pulled over her eyes and a cigarette balanced on her lip, somewhat in the style of Andy Capp.

I never knew what she wrote because I was too scared to ask, but seeing that old typewriter again brought her back to mind.

It’s hard to believe Phyllis was a real person, so perhaps I should think of her as my first other-worldly experience.

It was decent of it to rain so soon after I’d achieved a load of planting in the garden last weekend. I carefully watered in the cosmos and the salvia, some herbs and a cheerful marguerite, and then the rain, so long absent, came along and topped up the water supply to these welcome newborns.

But then the clouds didn’t seem to know when they’d done enough. They carried on emptying their loads down on to us, not thinking for a minute that enough was enough. Pace yourselves, clouds! Just a little, please, and then leave us alone for a couple of days until we welcome you back again.

The trouble is, our weather doesn’t do much in moderation. It gives us a just about acceptable temperature throughout the seasons – though a few degrees warmer wouldn’t be a bad idea sometimes – but it doesn’t seem to have a ‘that’ll do very nicely, thank you’ switch for us to access.

As a consequence, from time to time we suffer from droughts, floods, wild, wild winds, frozen rivers and sunburnt livestock (not to mention humans). It’s all so extreme, when all we ask is a little moderation for our gardens – and for ourselves.

As far as our garden is concerned, any watering that’s required and that the clouds fail to show up to do for us, gets done either by Geoff or by me. In other words, it isn’t what Philip May might call a girl job or a boy job. I can’t think what is at Hill Towers, to be honest, although like Philip and Theresa’s household I guess various tasks habitually fall to one or other of us, simply in the interests of fair distribution of labour.

Things have certainly become a lot fairer around here since Geoff stopped being terrified of the iron and what damage he might do with it, and since we worked through some of his ingrained aversion to being at large in the kitchen. He irons! He cooks! (Admittedly not much of either, but from baby steps we have achieved giant strides and I do believe he feels almost as proud as I do. He’s a long way off self-sufficiency, but we are getting there.)

With our gardens thoroughly well watered this week – OK clouds, again, that is enough, do please push off – we can enjoy watching broadcasts from Chelsea Flower Show without feeling we should be outside doing a rain dance.

I’ve only been to the show once in person and while I loved it and was thrilled to be there, I found that the difficulty in moving around and actually seeing anything was severely hampered by huge crowds.

For that reason, and of course for the bother of getting there and back, I choose to stay in the comfort of my own home and watch Chelsea on the telly with Monty Don and Co.

And if I sometimes have to turn up the volume to hear them above the sound of the rain drumming on the roof, then so much the better. It has to be one of the rare occasions when a gardener can experience a little frisson of smugness.

I certainly don’t get that smug feeling very often where gardening is concerned. I might get an appreciative pat on the back sometimes for the herbs that I grow, and I am also partial to a spot of praise for the compost, which, though I say it myself, is textbook stuff.

But that’s it on my Scale of Smugability: herbs and compost. Must do better. Help me, Monty!

I didn’t have to look very hard to establish that, once again, I’d failed to make it on to the Sunday Times Rich List. Not even into the lower end of the top 1,000.

Perhaps I should have held my hand up higher and they might have noticed me. But no, another year, another no-show.

I wonder who ‘they’ are, the people who sort the wheat from the impoverished chaff. What a job, eh? Spending a year minding other people’s business and slotting their names into order according to how many squillions of billions of pounds they have stashed away.

As we all know, you can’t take it with you, so what do these people do with their money? Some give huge amounts to charity, which is laudable, but as far as I can see from a few photographs, a lot spend it on tasteless bling. Judging by the number of smugeroos sitting among a sea of gilt repro furniture and glittering chandeliers, they didn’t make their fortune through tapping in to their aesthetic side.

A few don’t appear to spend it on personal grooming, either, but I shouldn’t get too personal.

Am I giving the impression of envy? I don’t mean to. I couldn’t imagine being happier than I am now, and I suspect that unfeasible amounts of money could only change that for the worse.

A few people of our acquaintance are, as we say, ‘troubled by money’ and they seem to have a tormented life as they obsess about investing in this and getting the best return on that. There are some we know who belong to investment clubs, where I presume they count their money in front of each other, join forces for a little splurge on something offering a good return, and compare Great Carpetbagging Feats of my Lifetime. It sounds thrilling stuff.

I suppose a couple of thousand or three might make a welcome difference to immediate needs here at Hill Towers, perhaps for painting the outside doors and window frames, but big bucks would only send Geoff and me into a dither of indecision and we’d end up dropping it or losing it down a drain.

Most of us are mere onlookers to the lives of the Rich Listers. We may raise an eyebrow of interest in their activities, perhaps even wonder why we hadn’t thought of such-and-such an invention or why we can’t write songs and sing as well as Adele or Ed Sheeran and stand on the world stage under a spotlight of superfandom.

But we’re not, we’re here, keeping the wheels turning at ground level, most of us just managing to live within our means and not thrusting after a place on that stage.

Of course, a light-bulb moment might happen, we may come up with that commercially viable invention and become swept away on a tide of success that lands us on the Rich List. Dream on. Look at all those crushed hopes and tales of ignominy that make us cringe on Dragons Den.

I had a brilliant idea only the other day, revolutionising the task of applying suncream to wriggling children. I shared the thought with my daughter and we (very) briefly fantasised about becoming entrepreneurs.

Then we wondered why no-one had thought of it before, until we realised that they probably had. Someone’s always got there first and, when the wrinkles don’t iron out, they move on to the next brainwave.

Sadly, I’ve only had that one idea and now my light bulb has gone out.

Geoff suffers from a complaint (although I’m the one complaining, not him) that goes by the name of selective hearing.

His tendency is to go all unresponsive and distant just when I am saying something important. I may be saying it for the 14th time, but if he had listened on one of the previous 13 occasions he needn’t have to put up with me being, well, just a little tedious in a stuck-needle sort of way.

As it is, I talk to myself so much that I get bored with the sound of my own voice. It would be nice to share my witterings, especially when they are informative and life-affirming. You’re missing so much, I tell him. He catches that without a problem and gives me a disbelieving, sideways look.

The selective deafness has built up over the years and gets activated especially when I talk about Cornwall.

Geoff has visited a few times and come away with the impression it is inhabited by people he can’t understand and ribboned with narrow lanes lined by stony banks that leap out and scratch the sides of his car. In other words, he hasn’t always had the happiest of experiences, and if it weren’t for the lure of Cornish pasties and saffron buns I might never have got him to my native county for five days last week.

“You’ll love it. I can tell you all about it,” I enthused. “I’ll even sing you some Cornish songs and explain some of the customs and give you the lowdown on the different types of boats the fishermen use and point out some of the features of Bodmin Moor and you wouldn’t believe how many famous writers and artists are from Cornwall, and . . .”

Of course, I lost him on the first corner – mention of the Cornish songs would have done it –  and he went into selectively deaf mode.

I sang the songs under my breath as we headed west, every mile taking me closer to my homeland and the ridiculous joy I knew I would feel on crossing the border.

That joy stayed with me for the duration of our visit, and I’m happy to say it infected Geoff as well. By his own admission, he fell under Cornwall’s spell, seduced by its uniqueness and pride, its breathtaking landscapes and seascapes, its happy people, its excellent food (not all pasties), its pretty towns and villages and its excellent roads.

I resisted the urge to say “See, I told you so,” and also managed to resist singing ‘Lamorna’ when we visited beautiful Lamorna Cove, or ‘Goin’ Up Camborne Hill Coming Down’ whenever we saw a road sign to Camborne.

In fact it was the road signs and signposts that held a particular charm for Geoff. He cherished some of the more outlandish names, exclaiming over such places as Mawnan Smith (“Surely that’s a greeting, not a village”), Gweek, Perranarworthal, Praze-an-Beeble, Mousehole and Indian Queens.

Having grown up with them, they didn’t tickle me as they did Geoff, but as a grockle (a visitor to Cornwall) he was entitled to be charmed. For me, they simply acted as accelerators of my emotions, flooding my nostalgia reservoirs as my mind flipped back and forth across the years.

The selective deafness was fully engaged as I droned on in my riveting way about “Friends who’d lived down that road,” or “I went to a party in that village.” Poor Geoff. He did enjoy it, even though his hearing problem seems to have become markedly worse.

This is the time of year when, if I had the right sort of power and influence, I would hit the Pause button so that we could all spend a little extra time enjoying the glories of spring.

All too soon this exhilarating period of greenness and new growth will be overtaken by summer’s dusty sultriness (or floods, I know) and we’ll have another year to wait until all this promise is ours again.

Another year until the birds sing fit to bust, filling the air with almost comically loud song, and another year until wild garlic and nettles add their fresh green taste to our tables and our gardens change into a patchwork of colour set against pastel blossoms and verdant lawns.

Intent on drinking deep from springtime’s overflowing cup, I walk and walk and walk through the countryside at every opportunity. Everything else that clamours for my attention can go hang while I commune with Nature in her best and most flattering outfit of the year.

I do sometimes wonder at myself and how carried away I can get when spring is all around me. I can’t help it, I just love it. Perhaps it has this effect on me because I fell under the influence years ago of Basil Fotherington-Thomas, the bubble-haired drip in the Molesworth books, who was prone to skip about saying “Hullo clouds, hullo sky”. I could easily do that if I could be sure no-one was watching.

Molesworth, “as any fule kno,” was highly contemptuous of the vacuous little chap, condemning Fotherington-Thomas as “a girlie” who loves the scents and sounds of nature “tho’ the less I smell and hear them the better.” Well, that’s your loss, Molesworth, and frankly it wasn’t as if you applied yourself to anything else to great effect. Even the Mrs Joyful prize for raffia was beyond your grasp.

Skipping about being friendly to the clouds and the sky is certainly more within my capabilities than running a marathon. Every year at London Marathon time I fleetingly harbour the thought – it is not an ambition – that maybe, just maybe, one day, and then I realise that I simply couldn’t.

It’s not so much the challenge of the 26 miles and however many yards, it’s the difficulty of finding a Lycra vest to go with my shorts. Match or tone? You see, I couldn’t even decide on that. Then there’s the loo business and the queueing at the start and the three or four broken ankles I’d be bound to sustain when running over the cobbles, and the uncertainty of how best to express my joy when crossing the finish line.

Would I hold my arms aloft and punch the air or would I sprint over and hold up a single finger in modest acknowledgement of the tumultuous roar from the crowds? You see, even before any training it’s not easy to decide on race tactics.

I learnt from the experience of friends who, walking in London on Sunday found themselves beside the marathon route, that it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t come home in the first tranche of elite runners. That was reassuring.

It seems it’s pretty cool to be among the back markers, no matter whether the vests and shorts match or tone. Our friends wrote in an email to us that they watched “the plodding, courageous heroes and heroines, many of them walkers by this stage. We both got tearful just watching them. In a world of greed and opportunism and dishonour it seemed a bright and shining example of the best of the human species.”

Last Sunday, Easter Sunday, will be for ever etched in my memory. It was the day my mother looked straight into my eyes and asked “Do I know who you are?”

To say I felt pole-axed, even felt the ground shake violently, would be an understatement. Ever since Mum was officially diagnosed with dementia in January 2013, my sister and I have drawn comfort from the fact she has never failed to recognise us.

Through a window, across a garden, at the far end of room, she has immediately known us. This time it was different. My heart sank. My stomach churned. We’ve hit a new low, I realised. It had been a week since I’d seen her, not that long to me but to her it might as well have been 20 years.

I try and rationalise what’s happening. Surely she knows my voice, the colour of my eyes, my smile, my general outline even? But no. She needed to ask who I was. So I told her. “I’m your shorter daughter, the little one! You know, . . .” and I used my nickname, which ignited the necessary spark.

She ingeniously covered up her lapse by saying, “I wondered if you might be my grand-daughter!” The pause before and after indicated that we both knew this was a desperate ploy to recover the situation.

Of course we swiftly moved on. I would never willingly distress Mum by referring to any of her lapses, least of all this seismic one. Nowadays, she is very quick to become emotional and she will cry if anyone mentions wartime experiences, for example. Such events, and any reminders that all her siblings and her friends have long since died, cause the tears to flow instantly.

So we steer clear of those conversations, and a great deal else. She does enjoy talking about her childhood and, neatly leap-frogging the war years, her life as a young bride in London, her scores of years in Cornwall where she baked and preserved, pickled and provided, gardened and skivvied for Dad, my sister and me.

In general, though, Mum doesn’t default to reminiscences. She’s much more concerned with the present, especially unusual names on lorries she can see from her window (“Oh, Norbert Dentressangle! Did you see that?”) and with the ever-changing numbers in the ranks of seagulls that line the rooftops within her vision.

It’s not riveting stuff for us, but it’s gentle and non-threatening to her all-important equilibrium.

That sudden, shattering moment when she had to ask me who I was came only a couple of hours after a friend had been asking after her. “Oh, she’s absolutely fine, thanks,” I said. “In fact she’s in such good nick she’s probably going to outlive my sister and me.”

That may have been said slightly in jest, but seriously Mum may yet do that, for in spite of having recently had her 95th birthday (“Oh, I thought I was 65,” she said at the time, with no hint of irony) she is able to bend, stretch, touch her toes and even break into a run.

Her decline over the past handful of years, while not physical, has been distressing for us, but not for her. She’s more merry and cheerful than she has ever been, unaware and untroubled by any concerns beyond the immediate moment around which her life revolves.

No Trump, no North Korea, no nuclear missiles – nothing. Not even whether or not she has had lunch. She might, or she might not have had it, it really doesn’t matter to her.

Whenever I’m on the floor playing with my grandsons, it occurs to me that there must be an upper age limit for such pastimes.

I don’t think I’m too old for Monopoly, even in its Junior format, because it is timeless and it gives the younger element a chance to taste victory when I splurge recklessly on property and go bankrupt. Grandma’s come last again: let joy be unconfined.

Our old family favourite, bagatelle, is fine, too, as long as I stand up from time to time to ensure the blood can still flow through my legs.

I enjoy Lego, even Duplo, the version for smaller hands, because it allows for creativity and gives instant results. I don’t enjoy it so much when I step on it, but enduring liquid pain and a slow death-by-Lego was never going to be that popular.

It is when our shared pastimes begin to enter alien worlds, in other words they take on the influence of Star Wars and telly-related influences of which I am ignorant, that I flounder out of my depth.

I make a lame attempt, under instruction from the boys, to adopt the persona of, say, Yoda, but since I don’t know if this is man, beast or fairy, I can’t give it the full Old Vic interpretation. I crouch slightly and make fists, adopt an evil look and grunt a bit while moving slowly on tiptoes, hoping I’m covering all possibilities, until I am told I’ve got it all wrong and I’m spoiling the game. At this point I play the age card and withdraw.

Left to their own devices, the boys manage fully 90 seconds of dramatic role play before scraps break out and everything degenerates into a cushion fight. I make teacher-ish noises in the hope of restoring order, but nothing properly stops the mayhem until food is mentioned.

That’s boys for you. The girls, on the other hand, my sweet, gentle, grand-daughters, treat me like a glass bauble off the Christmas tree, caressing, cajoling, and offering me the lead role in their fairy princess-themed play. They’re both excellent little tomboys, never happier than up to their armpits in mud and tramping stoically in wellies across the countryside, but even so their favoured theme for play is gently pink-hued.

How all this will pan out as each child achieves adulthood I simply cannot imagine. Will the boys, currently seven and five, become guerrilla fighters on a distant planet? Will the girls, now aged four and two, grow up to be flower fairies?

I suspect not. Let’s say more than that: I hope not. I’d put my Monopoly money on them all turning into adults who can put away childish things and grow up without keeping a toy light sabre in the corner of the room or a princess outfit hanging in the wardrobe.

Apparently, a lot of adults grow up but don’t actually grow up. They spend huge sums on toys, especially construction sets and action figures, according to new research by NDP, a retail analyst.

Their spokesman said: “The trend for older people to buy toys for themselves is possibly a reaction against the stresses of our fast-paced lives. Toys are fun and when you are having fun any stress you might be feeling goes away. It makes perfect sense.”

Well, it might to you, but not to me. If a Nerf N-strike Havok/Vulcan Fire EBF-25 Blaster costing £1,999.99 is the best stress-reducer you can think of, then I’m Yoda.