Well fellow wanderers, here we go again! But be warned, I have been having a bad time, but despite that, walking is helping, so just bear with me, we all make journeys, some in the mind, some by foot but they all take us to a better place, a better state of mind, a better peace, so just keep me company virtually and walk a while with me.
I’ll take you back to Bank holiday Monday if I may. I suspect most of you were taking advantage of the long weekend, but for me, being semi, well mostly retired, it was just another day. Most weekends are a sad occasion, seeing families and couples milling about going about normal like in contrast to my so called new life, but we all have to get used to stuff we don’t want to, and I’m no different. For me I had to go into town and get some cards, and then decided to go for a trot afterwards.
I donned the usual walking attire, boots, shorts and rucksack; I had other clothes on as well, just in case you were conjuring up a bizarre image, but that’s my normal stuff. My rucksack has been with me for a long time, but it seems to be getting heavier each time I put it on and all I have is normal stuff like coat, towel, stick, tripod, first aid kit and other useful stuff just in case, but it defo is getting heavy.
Anyway, the weather couldn’t make up its mind and neither could I, so I stuck a fleece on just in case and trotted off to the town. After the usual walk down the railway track I made it to the point where I could take a side path to town and the card shop. I entered the card shop and instantly was confronted with Christmas cards! Well buying cards is still difficult, being confronted with wife, anniversary and now Christmas cards was hard, I am getting better at it but it is still painful. I’m the type of bloke that studies the words in the card for things I would say with sincerity, not just a rhyme or some corny false statement; it has to be as true as if I had written it myself, something I did regularly for my wife, and even then, when I do get the card, I have to write my own words in and then the hard bit, sign it as “love from Dad or Mike” not from “Mum and Dad or Carol and Mike”, I suppose I will get used to it or devise some symbol or something. So with cards found, I went to pay for them and paid the £15.00 for 6 stamps, not really, but they seem to be getting so much nowadays, and stashed my booty safely in my rucksack.
I spied across the road that Greggs where open. Lunch on the run I thought, so re-masked and went over to them, I purchased a ham and salad baguette, soft drink and avoided the sausage rolls and doughnuts on the way to the till. Well, the counter tempts you like some siren voluptuously posed on a rocks and makes you succumbed to your innermost desires, a steak bake, warm sausage rolls etc. I’m sure that they make you queue to be served so you can allow your eyes to bigger than your belly. I slowly move towards the lady behind the till, she asks “is that all” when it happens, you blurt out through a saliva filled gob “and I pizza slice please”, where did that come from? It was as though I suddenly suffered a fit or involuntary outburst as it was very loud and by the looks of all those around, quite alarming.
I stashed the food in my rucksack and exited the shop with haste, almost as though I had been thrown out by a bouncer, so keen was I to leave after such an outburst. I was getting warm so took off the fleece stuffed that in my rucksack and slung it over my shoulders. I decided to walk just out of town, about 3 miles to what is known as the flood park to devour my packaged pray.
As I walked along the streets I felt melancholy in mood, another bank holiday on my own, buying cards to be signed by me alone and buying a meal deal for one as well. The streets where busy but just streets, nothing to distract apart from the noise and smells from the slowed traffic, just a lack lustre process of going about your business with nothing to look forward too or distract your mind from the emptiness you feel. To make it worse, I could feel the warmth of the pizza on my back through the rucksack. It reminded me of the feeling of my wife cuddling up in bed steeling my heat but receiving some back in return. Its strange how things just pop into your mind and how easily they are triggered, and how it stays planted in your subconscious.
I walked along the road and thought, I have to get off this path so decided to turn right along a path that used to bisect a little bunch of businesses. I reflected upon what was there as I walked through the newish houses that now occupy the space. To my left used to be a chap who worked on motorbikes, in fact it was the place I used to take mine to. On the other side was a timber and builder’s merchant. This made me think of the time that we moved here. I purchased all sorts of stuff from them, and the used to post the bill through my door when they delivered it so I could pop back and pay, such trust.
The path was supposedly haunted by some headless soul on a horse, well I thought, I have enough ghosts feasting off my heart, one more won’t make a difference, so pushed on and passed under the railway track. I scrambled up the embankment and re-joined the railway path, turning right along the track.
Eventually I made it to the flood park, or West Town Park, and my lunch date with a bench overlooking the lake. The flood park had a sign depicting its purpose and construction. I have cycled passed this sign many a time but never stopped. This time I did and learnt two things. The flood park’s proper name was in fact “Haverhill Flood Storage Reservoir” or “Meldham Washlands” and the brownish double spotted butterfly I had seen is called a “Gate Keeper”
I knew of three places to stop and eat, so walking up the slope of the grass dam, I turned right and walked passed the first bench, preferring to be more solitary whilst scoffing my lunch. After about 500 yds the second bench came in site. This was the one I wanted, but within 50 yds of it a chap on a bike shot passed me and stopped at the bench. What! I thought that’s my bench, my glares at him, as I approached the bench, must have been felt through the coat, hat and hoody, that seems to be the costume of choice for youngsters today. As I got close I could smell the herbal cigarette his was having lunch with and decided to march past with purpose, failure to do so will no doubt allow me to fly round the remainder of the flood park perimeter embankments.
My last choice of bench was about a mile away and backed onto the busy road. I didn’t want that one but had no choice, like many things in life. I couldn’t help feel the heat from the Pizza slice was getting less and once again reflected on the realities of my life. Over the short period my wife was ill, we spent more and more time apart and I was feeling the comfort of her warmth less and less like the Pizza in by back pack.
There wasn’t anyone fishing the lake today, normally there are a bunch of anglers encamped on the shoreline equipped with vast amounts of equipment and tech which they stood guard and tinkered with like they were part of a moon landing project, but today, no one, just me and puffing billy on the bench some yards behind, luckily I was down wind of him so still had my feet on the ground. Speaking of which, two things presented themselves to me in close succession, first a single white feather, this has been suggested as an angel in my presence. Well, I don’t know, but wasn’t going to take any chances, so picked it up, gave it a gentle kiss and allowed a zephyr to take it on its journey. The second thing was a brownish double spotted butterfly, and with my new knowledge, I now know it’s a Gate Keeper. It was courteous enough to allow a picture to be taken; thanked it, then hastened my pace to the remaining bench for lunch.
Before I reached the bench I chanced upon a road sign, well nothing strange about that I can hear you say, but, it faces the path I’m on. I must investigate this! Well it’s either a really silly mistake or the planning office thought walkers in the path would benefit from knowing how to get to the superstore. I did actually go round to the road side to see if it’s true and it was. The cars cannot see the sign at all, so it must be for the walkers on the path!
I re-joined the path and after crossing a wooden bridge and after a short walk I make it to the last bench, I sat myself down, ate my baguette quaffed a drink and searched out the now cold pizza slice. The pizza had accurately chronicled my recent past. All was fine and happy in our bubble and we shared mutual warmth but the dreadful cancer was consuming my wife without our knowledge and slowly but surely we were losing our heat until now, I find myself without any warmth, without my wife, alone with a cold pizza.
After eating my lunch I totted off, visiting another notice board with additional information en-route, which I duly photographed for us all to study at leisure. On leaving the flood park I returned to the streets, different streets, more open, less traffic and the laughter of children enjoying the play equipment with family, oblivious of the troubles and stresses of their life ahead. I smiled at their innocence and mused on the thought that youth is wasted on the young.
I eventually returned to the railway track, a constant in my solitary walking life, and eventually after a few miles entered East Town Park. I have walked to West Town Park and walked to East Town Park by road path a disused railway, a route of discovery, reflection and realisation. I veer off the track and enter the park via a bridge. This bridge spans the Stour brook, and is known as Pooh Bridge after the adventures of Christopher Robin. We as a young family threw sticks from one side to see who would win by their stick passing under the other side first. Again I reflected upon how this bridge has stood witness to our families life, once supporting laughter from the excitement and anticipation of one of four sticks passing the post first, now it just bears witness to the passing of our time, but waits patiently for the next family to enjoy the time honoured game of pooh sticks.
After spending nearly 50 years together, you get used to just being with each other, you are in a bubble and that’s all you need. When you are alone, you really start to appreciate what alone means. I have a watch that tells me all sorts of things and display messages as well. Most of the time I use it to see how many miles I have done, heart rate at the gym and control my camera and music in my ears. I also look at it for texts, my link to the world I wish I had. But as time marches on the texts become less and the only thing that vibrates my wrist is a warning “Motion Detected” the message from one of my cctv cameras, probably from a passing car or the colony of spiders that seem to like making the cameras their home. For the first time in my life, I appreciate how bad loneliness is and need to think more about those that are alone, especially now the nights are closing in
So this brings the story of my journey of 7.5 miles to an end, at just a little before 3.00 am, thanks to my relentless insomnia. It seems fitting that my best friend the radio is now playing Ed Sheeran’s new song “Visiting Hours” oh how I wish that heaven had visiting hours.
Just a heads up, this is a expedition that I want to do but need to do a lot of planning. From what I have learnt from various forums is that its a tough trip and unlikely that a single battery will complete it. Hmmm, challenge accepted!
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