“It’s hard to remember that this day will never come again. That the time is now and the place is here and that there are no second chances at a single moment.”
Words: Jeanette Winterson
Location: Cairngorm Plateau
Words: Jeanette Winterson
Location: Cairngorm Plateau
Another absolute gem from Colleen. Small, quiet, acts can work wonders, and they do! It does not take money, or lots of time, or complicated skills, to make a difference. This story clearly shows that!
No one really knew her.
She was unassuming. Alone. And quiet.
She lived quietly in a small house she moved to after her father died. He died eight years after her mother. She cared for them both while working full time. Her life was all about providing. Providing them comfort and care, providing for herself financially. When they were both gone she sold the house she had lived in with them. And moved to a quiet street, in the small house. An alley ran behind her house, a stream ran on the other side of the alley.
Her interactions with others was limited to work, or shopping or banking. People were pleasant enough to her, even if they thought her a little odd. It’s not that people avoided her, nor did she avoid people. She and they, they just didn’t make an effort to connect. So connections…
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Looks like a very fat duck!
A very funny shape indeed!
Ah! Now I see!
I love the type of verse that almost writes itself as you walk quickly, jog, or sit on a train travelling through the countryside. This is one such example. There are so many more that travel through my mind as I go on my daily walk. They disappear quickly, having had but an ephemeral existence!
Take it or leave it
Do it or don’t
Open your heart
It will or it won’t
Ask if it hurts
and if it does, stop
take out the washing
then go to the shop
Sit down to lunch
and later to dinner
are you a loser
or are you a winner
Think about children
and parents and friends
Are they in danger?
I hope that it ends
Take a deep breath
then take yet one more
open the windows
and shut the front door
Does this make sense
what’s that you mutter
you think I’m a plonker
an absolute nutter!
I go for a walk most days, and on the way I normally meet others going about their daily lives. Some I know by name, others by sight. Some are a once in a lifetime meeting.
What if one of these individuals ceases to be seen?
What has happened to them?
Quite often I am able to find out from some other acquaintance that “the man with the 2 black Labradors fell down a drain and wasn’t found for 2 weeks!” or some such tale. His dogs would, of course, have stayed faithfully by his side!
But what happens when a blogger disappears?
Have they given up their blog?
Are they taking a break?
Have they gone on an extended holiday to some exotic destination where there is no internet, or mobile coverage at all? If so, are they having severe withdrawal symptoms?
Have they taken holy orders?
How on earth am I to know?
I have agreed, with one of the bloggers I follow, that, should either of us die, we will come back to write a brief explanation of why we are no longer around. I really think that should be written into the terms and conditions of WordPress.
What say you?
I met a young swan this morning. The conversation went something like this:
Not only do I talk to the trees, I talk to all manner of things.
Each morning I go for a walk.
I have various routes, but all take in fields, woodland, the River Erewash, the Erewash canal, bridges, a main road, and suburban streets.
Some days I hardly see a living soul, others I see far too many!
My normal route takes me down my road, which has only some 9 houses. At the bottom of the road I have my first conversation, with a brazen hussy who rolls on the ground and will not let me pass before she is satisfied. Somewhere close by her brother will be watching. He is more timid and undemanding. Their Mummy lives at the end house and thinks they are both boys!
I explain that I have to get on, and continue on my way. She follows, then runs ahead. It is a constant game and she appears insatiable. Then she is gone! I shout after her “See you tomorrow.”
I move on down the rough pathway between fields and say hello to the 3 well kept horses to my left. They have a large, well maintained field, and shelter from the elements. A cat lives in the field with them and is fed, along with the horses, often joined by a pair of Mallard ducks and two very tame crows.
On the other side of the path there are numerous horses, not so well kept. They live in a huge field which is not maintained and often floods. They have no shelter save for the trees. The hedges call out for some old fashioned hedge laying and this fact started me off as an urban guerrilla gardener!
A few years ago I decided that I would nurture any spurious saplings I found growing in my garden. I plant then up into pots and grow them on until they are big enough to carry down the road, down the path, and they then happen to end up growing at the side of this field!
Last year I took this a stage further and now carry a folding saw (bought from Lidl at some amazingly low cost!). I am now able to cut out dead wood and half cut a few live uprights to weave into the now improving hedge! I shall never get to complete the task but it does give me satisfaction to see minor improvements, and a chance to compliment the new growth for doing such a fine job! Last year I transplanted a bush from my garden that was surplus to requirements. Last time we spoke she was doing very well!
Down to the end of the path, which curves left and then sharp right, to the steps of the railway bridge. Here I talk to all the unthinking people who have thrown their empty bottles, takeaway boxes and packets and, surprisingly, tied up bags of dog poo. These conversations are not at all friendly! Occasionally we have had the odd discarded needle and cannabis plant and, on such occasions, I phone both the council and the police and, before too long, the offending articles are gone.
Up I go, either running one step at a time, or walking, taking a varying pattern of steps. Sometimes 1, 2, 1, 2; maybe 2, 2, 2, 2; or, if I’m feeling really good I may even go to 2, 2, 3, 2, 2, 3. You can see what an exciting life I lead!
If, by now I have not already encountered any dogs, this is the place we will surprise one another. Little dogs that is! Bigger dogs can normally be heard coming. The bridge is metal, and the dog’s claws create a musical forewarning.
Dogs are as unique as humans are. Some do not want to speak. Some do not even want to acknowledge your presence. Others greet you like an old friend even if you’ve never met before. Often owners are very wary of other humans interacting with their children. Some offer a warning that they are very dirty or have been paddling or swimming, others say not a word and scowl or smile benignly. I don’t mind any of these things as I know that most dogs will give endless, unstinting love and loyalty, and will appreciate you no matter who you are, what you are, or how you smell!
I do not mind playful jumping as I’m wearing my walking clothes anyway. I do, however, shy away from slobbery dogs, especially if the day is warm and dry. At least if it is wet I can wash my hands in the wet grass!
Onwards, over the bridge, cursing at the graffiti all the way, sometimes a wry smile at a witty new comment. I’ve still not encountered the IT guy with the large dongle!
Down the steps on the other side of the railway and out with the saw to trim off an overhanging branch that is becoming a nuisance!
Now I have the first direction choice. I can go left through woodland towards an old, overgrown, football field complete with rusting metal goal posts. This is popular with dog walkers. This deviation eventually rejoins the path I am taking to the right.
My path meanders alongside a wild, mostly untended field, with trees on the left. If it is wet, and the vegetation is lush, I soon start to get soaked from the chest down. The bird song here is usually tremendous and I always marvel at the volume achieved by such small chests and throats. I tell them all how amazing they are and how they add such wonder to our world!
This path ends at a small footbridge over the River Erewash. To the left I can see the overgrown football pitch with large dogs ploughing through the grass and small dogs leaping to see where they are!
On to the bridge, and I always peer over the sides to see if there are any fish to say good morning to. Sometimes the bridge acts as a meeting place. Someone else has stopped to watch the world go by, maybe several people. This can be the cause of extending the walk time by half an hour as we put the world to rights. Eventually, we all break off to go our separate ways. If someone is going my way I feel obliged to walk at their pace for a while. I much prefer my own company when walking so may often have to excuse myself as having to hurry away to some other, imagined, appointment!
Over the bridge I have another direction choice. Straight ahead to the Erewash canal then left or right along the towpath, or straight over the canal bridge; or, my usual route, right along the river bank.
Right it is, meandering with the river. I like it best when the water is fairly low and then the river talks, babbling away to itself, and to anyone who will listen. One particular spot has exactly the same babbling noise as a small brook of my childhood, where we could paddle, and dam the water with stones and broken branches. It makes me smile at the memory. if I’m lucky I will catch a glimpse of a kingfisher. I haven’t yet managed to get one on camera, they are far too quick.
Halfway along the path I notice that the Japanese knot weed has crossed the river on to the left bank. Only 4 or 5 stems so far. I contact the Environment agency to let them know but they are already aware and, a few days later, they are spraying it to hopefully stem its spread.
A little further and I pass the spot where the squirrels live. If they are about we have a lengthy chat. If not, I shout hello to them anyway!
The path ends abruptly against the railway fence but there are numerous paths off to the left, through the trees, to the canal bank. I take my favourite and normally turn left towards Sandiacre.
Along the tow path there is far greater chance of conversations with sentient beings. Ducks, swans, black headed gulls, coots, moorhens, blackbirds, thrushes, tits of varying types, sparrows, finches, cats, dogs, and, lastly, humans.
I get to know people by their dogs. There is the golden labradors couple. One dog is old, creaky, and slow, and mostly doesn’t really want to walk. If he has to, he very slowly ambles along. The other is a leaner and takes great delight in using my leg as a prop. Quite often he has been for a paddle or a swim so I end up with soaked trousers.
Another black retriever swims every time he walks. He finds a big stick, jumps in the canal and then swims very strongly, straight up the middle of the canal for about 300 metres and then climbs out and rejoins his daddy for the rest of the walk. He does not talk to strangers!
Cyclists abound, especially on Sundays. Joggers come in all shapes and sizes and, occasionally, I encounter a guided walking group. Not for me! To each of these I offer a cheery Good Morning and a comment.
There is a very chatty swan along here. He has always managed to raise a good brood of cygnets. Some years the brood has all, or partially, been predated, other years they all survive. This year, his long-standing wife was killed by a staffie type dog and Sydney, for that is his name, went into what looked like terminal decline. He lost weight and became very straggly. I’m pleased to announce that a new lady has appeared on the scene and they have now set up a permanent home. She hasn’t told me her name yet!
In a while I have to leave the canal bank and head into Sandiacre, joining the main road towards home.
Here there be dragons! It’s amazing how some people will do almost anything to avoid acknowledging my presence, or answering my cheery “Good morning”. Despite this I make a point of speaking to everyone I pass. I will win, eventually!!!
It’s always interesting to see new shops being prepared and I always make a point of welcoming their enterprise and wishing the owners the best of luck. You can normally predict whether they are going to be successful or not but I would like to be proved wrong on occasion!
Nearly home now, passing over the river, the railway. Seeing what old motorbikes are being MOT’d in the very busy bike and motorcycle shop. Waving, or speaking, to shop keepers, a lady who walks miles with her wheeled walking frame, the whistling man, the man who is always eating as he walks.
I arrive home and my wife asks if there were many people about.
Not many, I reply!
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
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