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Apart from the odd foray to local shops and the like I haven't
been out of the house for a month!
I thought I should when the sun came out today at about lunchtime, despite not really wanting to! So . . . by 2:30 I had finished arguing with myself about what coat to take and what shoes to wear and whether or not I should just go to sleep on the couch instead. I put my combat boots on, a green waxed cotton weatherproof coat and hat in a rucsac on my back and set off up the road in the direction of the river Avon at Hanham. The sun was periodically obscured by threatening clouds blowing in from the West but it was, nevertheless, summery warm and positively hot when the sun was free to bear down upon me. The sleeves of my long sleeved black T-shirt were soon rolled up and I had worked up quite a sweat before I had even reached the end of my road. I began to think that perhaps wearing all black on such a day was not the right choice. The sound of industry in the churchyard drew my attention to the mound of freshly dug earth waiting to embrace the newly dead and I laughed at my doubt.
Straight down the Kingsway, right to the end, straight over the busy Nags Head Hill and down the little one way street that lead..... well who knows where but down was a familiar place and slow deep water is a stranger to hills. I could have driven anywhere. I could have walked to the pond at St George ...but no. The thought of this particular stretch of water had been reoccurring in my mind of late. Nothing else would do. Come rain, come mud, come people from work.... I was going to walk this stretch of river to lay the thought to rest.
Nibbletts Hill the signposted name sounded familiar. Gunters Hill with unspeakable vandalising of the G. I had walked this way before. Eighteen years before rushing around on only my second delivery 'walk' with a loaded mailbag almost too heavy to carry. How quickly I wanted to get the job done and how foolish I had felt in my uniform tripping over the single wire fence that divided ....yes, those two houses there. That was the lawn over which I had spread a bag of letters. It seemed to me no wonder that postmen have a lesser life expectancy than most other workers. My knees began to ache with what I think are the first signs of arthritice. I'd repent at my leisure tomorrow. Today I was going to do some walking.
It had only taken perhaps twenty minutes, around this next corner and there . . . oh! There were the new houses that had been built on the riverbank!! Turning left hoping from one side of the road to the other following the cunningly staggered pavements I headed off towards where I could now see the river. I passed the sign at waist height that announced the December 1960 flood level and without a care happily headed off the road and along the riverbank path. At last I was walking away from the road, squelching through muddy puddles following against the flow, the path of the river. Fishermen sat intently at every gap in the bank surrounded by rods and boxes and floats and things with wheels and things without. Trays of maggots squirmed as though trying to escape their inevitable merciless, impaled and watery end. There are plenty of fish that are vegetarians I thought. Aren't they good enough?
One day I will go fishing again. I had sat right there at that spot with my father only....how many years ago. I had hooked an eel but didn't know it and so had given it time to digest the maggot, hook, line and all. No amount of gripping and disgorging would sort that out. You can't hold an eel. I've never seen it done. "There's nothing for it. Whatever you do don't tell your mother," my father had said as he reached for the knife. I helped as we tried as painlessly and quickly as possible to decapitate the eel. You can't cut an eel's head off painlessly or quickly. You just can't no matter what the eel thinks.
One day I will go fishing again but I'll go without the equipment. I guess I'll just be sat really. I'd like that and if it rained and got cold I'd probably go home.
I carried on walking, keeping pace with the two Canada geese that had only recently welcomed into the water, half a dozen fluffy offspring. They soon cottoned on and hissed a warning that I should speed up or slow down.... it mattered not, which but that I should do either. I speeded up. I was eager to lose myself in the mass of green that was the trees ahead of me. It seemed impossible that the banks of the river could accommodate such huge billowing mountains of green. All around was bird song and from time to time an urgent rustling in the undergrowth as I passed. Now and then a fleeting glimpse of a bird or a rabbit or something else.
~I'm getting tired so I'll cut to the chase ~
I walked in the brilliant sunshine for about an hour and a
half and finally reached the Chequers and Lock and Weir pub. I
couldn't believe my luck. It was almost deserted. I went in,
perspiration dripping from my forehead, and for old times sake
decided to have a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale, but not in a
bottle of course! Can't take a bottle outside. A glass is fine
but not a bottle. I took my glass after confirming I would still
have the drink even though I couldn't have a bottle, and went
outside so as not to disappoint the barmaid. Outside aswell as
the well laid out beer patio there was also a long narrow piece
of ground that had a scaffolding construction and large plastic
sheets hung on as a roof. It had just begun to rain so I went and
sat under cover. I was the only one there and was amazed to watch
the river and the weir the trees and the fields opposite as the
sky blackened and the heavens opened. It poured down. It really
did. I had got there just in time. Perfect. There are times when
I must confess I have up until now lived a charmed life. I've
seen no wars. I've never gone hungry other than by choice (I had
chosen not to eat as yet today). I've escaped things that have
killed less fortunate people. And here...today...I had walked all
the way there in the sun....it was ME who had embarrassed other
people by saying hello.....I didn't get caught in the
rain.....and I had even found two pennies under the table.
Now what was it my sister said about two pennies? Finding two was HER special sign!
The rain poured and poured. Here and there the roof leaked, but not on me, and elsewhere large pools had formed overhead.
A single bottle of Newquay had always had an effect on me. Maybe it was the lack of food but I began to feel very, VERY pleasant. I undid my rucsac and pulled out my waterproofs but for the time being only put on my hat because it was warm. I look good in the hat but only if I shape it and make a peak. I did and felt as though I looked good. Amazingly although I thought by now that it probably would...the sky cleared and the sun came back out. Everything glistened and began to steam!! I suppose I must have but I don't remember ever having seen everything steam before. I wandered about a bit looking at everything and then pleased myself by emptying the large pools that were hanging overhead.
~I'm too tired to continue . . . you get the idea. ~
It was magic. For a brief moment time stopped. So.....I've
been invisible AND been out of time in my time now. Whatever
It was a combination of beer, drugs, weather, circumstance and maybe going out for the first time in four weeks. Wonder what experiences Terry Waite or John McCarthy had.
I walked home along the same route and had a kebab and chips to celebrate (veggie of course).
I can hardly move now !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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