The nights are drawing in and it was already 3.45pm when I arrived at the house, courtesy of my new ‘SatNav’. I am a driver of the ‘old school’ and I initially scorned their use, preferring maps or memory. Memory was very important when I was a dispatch rider, working in central London. Like the London cabbies, we motorcycle dispatchers would memorise all the streets and as we were paid per parcel delivery, the faster we were, the more money we earned.
Now I have succumbed to the idea of being guided by 6 or 7 satellelites instead of my own map-reading and directional skills, I have become a SatNav addict….no trip to the corner shop would be complete without Sean’s Scottish brogue to direct me.
I had tried quite a few ‘voices’ before choosing Sean. Dennis Hopper was too sinister, Hannibal Lecter became boring after a while and John Cleese was altogether too bossy, with his parting:
“You have reached your destination – just don’t expect me to carry your bags, you’re on your own now!”
Finally, a rather over-sexed female voice that told me:
“You have reached your destination...but don’t stop just yet” - proved to be the last straw.
So Sean it was. In any case, the Connery burr telling me that I had reached my destination “Shaken but not shturred” did seem to suit my car's rough suspension and it’s 412,000 miles on the clock (yes…really!) Considering I do around 1,000 – 1,500 miles per week in it, my little Peugeot 106 is amazingly reliable for it’s age – At one stage I was hoping that I would get it half-way round the clock...500.000 miles...however corrosion has set in, together with quite a bit of wear and tear, so I'll have to keep my fingers crossed.
It’s strange how time flies. It seems only yesterday that young Sean burst onto the screen in Dr No, with Ursula Andress. I remember watching him on Black and White television, being interviewed about the film. Then a couple of years later, watching my favourite Bond film "Goldfinger"
The kitchen table was full of pears from the seeds my mother brought back from Spain, wrapped in tissue paper. Northern Italy is a magnet for people who love wine, cheese and pears and my mother and father had a lovely holiday there in the '70's. Although wine was not to her taste, I know she would have loved the cheeses and the fruit. When she returned to England, she brought back the ‘pips’ – the seeds of the pears she had eaten – and planted them in her garden. Christina then visited Liz, bearing the small shoots she had grown from the seeds she had wrapped in tissue and brought home. (I wrote about the trees and Mam and Dad a year ago)
Although the pears have looked wonderful every year since that time, this is the first year that they have tasted so sweet...
Liz was keen to go walking, and as the shadows were lengthening, I had a quick sandwich and a cup of coffee and we set out in the car to a small pudding-basin of a hill, no more than a mile in circumference, but so full of trees and ferns that it seemed limitless from the inside. It was the enchanted forest from the The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. When I was around eight or nine years old, I would check the back of the wardrobe in my parents house, in the hope of finding a pathway and a lamp post…and a Faun.
I still have the wardrobe – and the memories.
As we circled the hill in our endless forest, a rather irritable pageant of characters passed us going the other way. First up was a woman who had lost her dog. She seemed almost indignant that Liz didn't know were the dog was. Next to appear were a slightly frantic group, at least two women and a man. The women were calling out for their lost friend (the owner of the dog) whilst the man sat quietly on a tree stump with a forlorn pooch on a lead. Liz again got stuck in and tried to help (only making matters worse) - I observed the action from a safe distance (as elderly men tend to do)
Eventually Liz extricated herself and we walked in a clockwise direction, around the perimeter of the hill. We had only gone a short way, when two bright eyes and a pair of floppy ears arrived to complete the anti-clockwise pageant. "Floppy Ears", who had obviously managed a full lap of the hill, listened carefully to Liz and then set off at high speed in the direction we had come from. Distant barking indicated a joyful reunion...
The light was amazing; a beech tree seemed to glow from within. There were no shafts of sunlight or even bright patches as we passed through North and East, but When we reached South-West, the effect was stunning.
It struck me that the whole of middle England (except the high bits) would have been covered with trees and bushes - not so long ago. It was easy to imagine a family making a clearing in the endless forest and being joined by others. As time moved on, the clearing would become a village and then a town...
But it would have all started with the endless forest...
By now we had completed a full circuit of the pudding-basin and we were back in the West
The final rays of the sun were so beautiful...
We started to make our way back to the car in the rapidly increasing dusk. The smell of leaves and damp earth mixed in with the chilly Autumn air, held endings and beginnings - and also made me look forward to a hot cup of tea, sipped in front of an open fire, before supper, followed by an evening of Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett is in my opinion, the ultimate actor to portray the legendary Holmes), then the excellent David Suchet as Poirret...and if we were lucky, Agatha Christie's Miss Marple - not to mention Columbo. For such a gentle soul, Liz does like her Crime mysteries! (so do I)
Just before we got in the car, I took a final look at the path we had walked down. It was almost dark and I had the same sensation I have had since I was a child...that my dusk was someone else's dawn.
As we returned to the house, courtesy of Sean’s instructions, we found ourselves driving directly toward the sunset. As the sun began to sink below the horizon, Liz countermanded the the Scottish brogue and the gruff instruction to "Turrrn Right"
“I know the way he means" she said...
"Go straight on”
“Just follow the sun for as long as it lasts.”
It seems to have taken a lifetime to write this post. It is now December.
But soon the snowdrops will appear...
Round, like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel.
Never ending or beginning,
On an ever spinning wheel
Like a snowball down a mountain
Or a carnival balloon
Like a carousel that's turning
Running rings around the moon
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes on it's face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space...
Alan Bergman and Michel Jean Legrand