Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Walking to School

It’s national walk to school week this week, apparently. Or that, at least, is the line they’ve been feeding us at the village school. This is all very well, but it’s a time-consuming exercise. You can’t just whizz down in your car, drop and run. Oh no, suddenly I’m hob-nobbing with every Tom, Dick and Harry in the village.

Take yesterday. First, since I was passing, I popped my head into the barn where the village mechanic does his thing amongst the chickens. This is very handy, I might add – having a man what does cars at the end of my lane. Certainly much cheaper and more convenient than schlepping over to the swanky Audi concession in Macclesfield where they stitch you up royally with the invoice and you have to hang around finding things to do in the industrial estate for hours on end. There’s always the bowling alley I suppose….anyway, I digress. I’m umming and aahing about whether or not to get my timing belt done. The car’s, I mean, not mine. Mind you, my timing belt’s in need of a good service. Maybe that’s been the problem all these years? Hmm, I’d never thought of that. Can you get that on the NHS? I shall have to investigate. But I’m digressing again. (See? That’s why I never get anything done – and am always late.) Anyway, a discussion was had and we agreed to talk. Then, just as I was leaving, a friend drove up in her smart new 4x4 (needed round here I can tell you – it’s not Fulham, you know). We proceeded to have an erudite conversation about the clanking noise coming from underneath the vehicle despite the fact that it had just been fully serviced but in the end decided best leave it to the mechanic. (However, I did just wonder if it was a trapped stone and later discovered this was the startlingly technical conclusion the mechanic had drawn too. Is this the start of a new career for me, perhaps? I did once have a boyfriend who regularly dismantled cars, so I must have picked up a few tips there. Move over Kylie Minogue. Er, not. I’m 45 and brunette. Not quite the same, is it?).

But I’m digressing AGAIN. So, where was I. Ah yes, walking up the lane, just trying to get home but meeting various obstacles along the way. The next was one of my near neighbours. I was teetering on the verge, composing a nice shot over the hedge of the field with the marsh marigolds and the sheep and the sweep of the hills beyond, when he came past and was clearly in dire need of a chat. We tut tutted about all the sheep and lambs wandering round the place (one had whizzed down the lane in front of me and L as we walked down to school, its lambs bleating furiously in the field and wondering why the hell their mother was doing a runner when they wanted feeding (I think I know); another three were hanging around outside the pub, presumably waiting for opening time; another two lambs had just thrown themselves under Joe’s wheels etc etc). The farmer concerned believes in the right to roam. When he still had dairy cows he used to deliberately leave the field gates open so one cow would wander out, moo, and then all the others would follow it down the lane to the milking barn. Same on the way back. Simple, eh? We also discussed the myxomatosis rabbits (one had tottered across the road in front of me when I took the big girls to the bus this morning – and the same one was still bumbling about in a befuddled manner now, bless its little heart). Did see three tiny little bun-buns just yesterday though, so there’s hope. Breed like rabbits, etc etc. So it’s not total wipeout. I do love seeing their little white tails bouncing across the green fields, though it’s always seemed rather unfair to have a camouflaged coat then a white tail which just screams ‘Shoot me! Shoot me!’. Still, their problem, not mine, I’m pleased to say. I’m a little higher up the food chain.

So, what was next? Ah yes, I was on the home straight (clutching - slightly guiltily - some pink and white wild flowers I’d gathered from the roadside) and panting up the last really steep bit, hallucinating about kettles and Agas and nice cups of tea, when my neighbour staggers out with his box of goodies to recycle. Now, he’s always up for a chat, so I knew my cuppa would remain a mirage for a while longer. We discussed the merits of the day (sunny and therefore glorious and much cherished round these parts); we discussed blossom and his hollyhocks (there’s a story there but we won’t go into that now) and the fact that everything up here in the hills is a good two weeks behind the plains. We’ve still got snowdrops. Ha, ha, only kidding. But we do still have tulips and bluebells and the daffs have only just faded. Ah yes, it’s a harsh life in the High Peak. We discussed moving to Gloucestershire or some such soft southern option, but concluded we might just stay put for a while. Maybe. And he asked me about the house in France (he’s a bit of property magnate on the side, unlike his farming brothers in the village), and I told him the weather seems to have taken a dive down there too ever since we invested our precious pennies in finding ‘A Place in the Sun’. Huh! Last August, you could count the balmy nights on the fingers of one hand. There was me imagining lazy hazy days by the beach and much drifting about hotly in a Kaftan, sipping on a gin and tonic. Yep, ok, more disappointment to handle. But I’m good at that now. I’ve lowered my expectations. I told him how the property had been moved, timber by timber, from its original inland location, to one closer to the sea because the previous German owner had a, clearly, very bossy wife who it was clearly not worth crossing (they've since divorced). Anyway, saved us the trouble, I spose. And then we went on to discuss the merits of old houses versus new until, finally, I was able to take my leave with a smile and a cheery wave and go and get that kettle on. It was now 10 o’clock and I’d taken 45 minutes to get home. I could have driven to Manchester in that time. Still, I’m not complaining really. Is this not, after all, what village life is all about and what I love compared to the anonymity of my previous life on a street in London? Indeed it is, and my day felt complete before it had really even started. You can’t ask for more than that, can you now?

11 comments:

Milla said...

from soft optioned Gloucestershire I can cheerfully report that the ceanothus are on their way over - hurry, hurry, hurry - and the daffs are but a dream.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Aw poor little Bunny - put it out of its misery - it is a horrible way to go. Ironically it was created by man to kill rabbits and eventually they manage to breed a strain of bunny immune to the disease - it happened here.

Oh but I digress toooo . . . Sorry I am way too sensitive about animals sometimes.

I know what you mean in your blog . . . I can never just pop to the village - it always takes hours - there are some people that you look forward to talking too and some . . . . . . . .

Elizabethd said...

That's village life, wherever you are, I like it when i meet my neighbour and am greeted with the obligatory four kisses!

ChrisH said...

There's nothing like getting about on foot for meeting folks, is there? The only problem these days is that I tend to meet them when I'm running (and timing myself) so I have to keep deducting minutes for each chat I stop for!

the mother of this lot said...

Every week's walk to school week here! But I do enjoy meeting people on the way there and back!

Frankofile said...

Yup, village life in France is like that too. And then there are the aperitif sessions. And I wonder why I wonder why we don't get anything done.

mountainear said...

I don't live in a village as such - just a place with a name. But yesterday it took 90 minutes to make a simple journey by car - just stopping and a few words here and there. People leave their tasks - clipping a lamb's foot or organising granny - just to pass the time of day.I guess it's what keeps this community ticking.

Frog in the Field said...

Brilliant post!

Dusty Spider said...

What a lovely way to spend your time. Chatting to folk and pausing to take lovely pictures. You can't do that in the car can you! Enjoy it while you can. There'll be a reason why you can't do it next week. Flick xx

elizabethm said...

Well this is what I should have been doing - walking about our village instead of getting in the car and going guiltily to Tescos which put me in a bad mood only relieved by reading this. Next time I need some shopping I promise to do it in the village.

Pondside said...

No indeed - it doesn't get much better than that. Your walk, your visits sound lovely.

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