Wednesday 17 September 2014
I got up a little earlier this morning so that I could have an early start to my daily walk. I wanted to be at one of my favourite spots by 9.30. I didn’t tell my wife what I was doing, or why. She knew instinctively.
I started down my normal route then deviated, over a fence, into a large field, and along the river defence bank. I should not have done so as the field is private, although much used over very many years by many walkers, most with dogs. Recently, the lady owner had put up notices restating the privacy, and the fact that “farm dogs run loose”, a veiled threat that trespassers may be eaten! The notices disappeared within a few days, alas, so did the walkers.
Today I needed to walk across that field, so I did.
I met a lovely big brown dog of indeterminate breed and we shared greetings and a hug. I needed a hug…….. or two. I waved to his owner, way across the field, he waved back. I spoke to the horses and stroked a few on the way. I said hello to the crows, a sleeping cat on a sloping roof and, every now and then, I sobbed quietly.
I got to where I wanted to be, a little footbridge over the River Erewash, dry eyed and more composed. I had time to spare so, as is my wont, I took a few photos. A big, gentle, trusting horse was interested in what I was doing. He had the most beautiful big eyes and velvety nose and even allowed me to take macro shots to remember this particular bit of magic.
I had been thinking, at various stages during the previous hour, of others far away. What they were doing, how they were feeling.
9.30am, 10.30 in South Africa, where my Big Sister’s funeral service was just starting. I paused and thought of her again then continued down the path to get to another vantage point where I could survey a large stretch of the river and valley.
Just as I was starting to feel a little sad again I met a man with a dog. A good man, I knew straight away!
I’ve always been quick to form an opinion of someone when we first meet. I have been lucky, or astute, in that most of my first impressions have proved to be accurate.
He started by asking what I’d done with my dog. He had seen me across the field with my brown friend! I explained, and he asked if I had been castigated by the field’s owner or her vicious dogs. I told him about my sister’s funeral just having started, perhaps with a view to excusing myself and moving on. Perhaps I just needed to tell someone.
He was so understanding, so compassionate, and asked with genuine interest about Big Sister and me. We had a really friendly chat, almost as if we’d known each other for years. We put a few things to rights in the world!
Ralph, as I discovered, lived in a house that I’ve often passed. In the garden is a metal sculpture of a tree. I always wondered why, as it seems incongruous. He used to own a restaurant in Derby and a friend of his had made the tree to display in a large open space there. It was originally silver and was decorated according to the seasons. When he closed the restaurant he moved the tree into his garden. It now stands rather rusty and forlorn. He teaches Yoga and makes a meagre, but stress free, living. He does not own a television, how I admire that! His next door neighbour is an ex army man and is, according to Ralph, very much like me! Don’t know if that is good or bad.
It’s amazing what you can discover in so short a time.
I excused myself in order to get to my vantage point for what I imagined would be the time of the end of the service. Before I left I thanked Ralph and told him that he’d done me the world of good. He shook my hand, not a thing that happens so much nowadays, and hoped that we may meet again sometime.
I got to my vantage point and surveyed all the good of the land. I thought of my Big Sister, and smiled a tearful smile. She would have enjoyed that walk