Posh postie Tessa Hainsworth in St Mawes. Tessa has written a book, Up With The Larks, based on her true life story of giving up a high-powered career with the Body Shop to move to Cornwall with her family, where she took up a job as a postwoman. Picture: Mike Thomas
A BUDDING Roseland author refuses to say exactly where she lives, but subterfuge pays off, because her book is currently second only to spymaster John Le Carre in Truro Waterstone's book charts.
Tessa Hainsworth's, Up With the Larks is the story of how she started a new life in Cornwall with her husband Ben and young family, after giving up a high-powered job as the London-based marketing manager for cosmetics company The Body Shop.
Tessa said: "We had plans to start a paint-your-own-pottery business but soon realised it was very much a London concept and wouldn't work in Cornwall. We were looking around for jobs when I found a job as relief postman for the Roseland, so the book is the story of that experience.
"I signed the Official Secrets Act when I became a postie, and I've an agreement with my agent that the names of the people in the book and the villages have been changed to protect their privacy, so I really can't say where any of them are, or where I live now.
"I'm literally sworn to secrecy."
Anyone who reads the book, however, will instantly recognise St Mawes, Gerrans and Portscatho among other places and trace the lanes that formed part of Tessa's daily round as she gradually shed the stress of her previous job.
"It was a 60-mile van round, but I also used to walk seven miles a day and lost two stones in the process, so I no longer had to have a personal trainer and got really fit.
"I soon got used to not worrying about my appearance and you could tell the van was designed by a man – you pulled down the sun visor and there wasn't a mirror to check your make-up.
"But I also learned why postmen wear shorts nearly all year round. It's not a macho thing, just that it's easier to dry bare legs than wet trousers."
Tessa's day would start at 4.30am, hence the title of the book, when she would leave for the Truro sorting office to begin her working day. She would then return with the Roseland's post.
Nicknamed "the posh postie" and delivering to a host of homes, she got to know her regular customers and their animals, for which she had to remember their favourite treats.
She explained: "I'd see a little nose peeping out from under a gate, waiting, and used to feel mortified if I'd forgotten to take a yellow chew, knowing that that particular dog only liked yellow chews. There was so much to remember, in addition to where people wanted to have their post left.
"Then the next year, I found that people began to leave little things for me to take home. There'd be a lettuce waiting for me, or a bag of veg. They were signs of real friendship and I realised I'd become part of the community."
Not everyone was friendly. There was the occasional customer who barely acknowledged she had tramped up the lane in wind, rain and gales only to deliver a piece of mail which she was told curtly was hardly worth the effort of receiving, but on the whole she found it an heart-warming experience.
Tessa explained: "I never had a job before where there was a beginning, middle and an end to the day, after which I was free to become a mum – it was wonderful.
"I learned so much. I gradually learned to live in the now, rather than a future when I was planning business events months, even years ahead, and it felt good."
She explained how the book came about: "I was telling a friend that one day I had to deliver an anchor – there were so many similar 'you'll never guess what's happened today' moments that she said I should write them down.
"I'd also kept photographs on my rounds of the things I'd started to observe – the sunrises, the changes in the seasons and the weather.
"So when I gave up the job after three and a half years when my husband started work as a property developer, the time seemed right to begin writing.
"I'd never written anything before. It's been an amazing experience and I can't believe the reception the book's had since it came out earlier this month. It's already been reprinted. I'm still walking around in a daze."
She added: "I've done book signings across Cornwall, and I'm planning to do them on the King Harry Ferry in August.
I even managed to present a copy to Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall when they were in Truro last week.
"You've just got to seize the opportunity – it's what it's all about!"
Up With The Larks by Tessa Hainsworth, priced £12.99, is published by Preface.