The bitterly cold wind has returned, but we do seem to be in one of the few areas of the country without snow. Louisa in Nottingham has five inches of it. Jackie drove us out to Bransgore where she visited the MacPenny Garden Nursery and whence I walked to Sainsbury’s car park in Ringwood.
There were lots of cyclists on the forest road. Some offered or returned a cheery greeting; some even managed a smile; others, usually those with head down, bum in the air, and hands tightly gripping the handlebars, simply pedalled on regardless.
A pair of Kestrels hovered overhead, soared over a field, swooped and scattered a foraging flock of unidentified other birds.
Because it was so cold and because the road was fairly flat, I set a brisk pace, which meant I covered about seven miles in two hours. This turned out to be rather unfortunate. Before we left the flat we checked we each had a phone. As we left I mentioned that I wasn’t carrying my keys, but that didn’t matter because Jackie had hers. ‘I’d better not lose you today, then’, she quipped.
We thought that maybe the journey would take me three hours. I said I would meet her in the Ringwood car park, but Jackie, thinking the journey might be a bit far, suggested I ring her to tell her when I’d like her to collect me, indicating where I’d be. Passing Ringwood Football Club ground I realised I wouldn’t have far to go, so at a signpost signalling one mile to my goal, I phoned her to say I would meet her in the car park as originally intended. I got the messaging service. I left the message. She had not replied by the time I reached Sainsbury’s.
Now, Sainsbury’s car park in Ringwood, on a bleak Sunday morning, dressed in clothing only warm enough for striding out, when you have raised a sweat that turns cold and clammy the minute you stop and stand around for the next hour, is not the most delightful place to be. You can amuse yourself wandering up and down the rows of vehicles searching for a missing Modus, but even this palls after a while. You can sit down in the draught, but it is really better to keep moving. The bus shelter is the best option, but that tends to confuse drivers who are inclined to think you want a ride. And you can’t be seated anyway because you’d have your back to the car park.
I wasn’t too alarmed at first, but three quarters of an hour seems a long time for someone to have no signal, even in the New Forest. I had added a text to my original message, tried ringing every thirty seconds or so, and even rung the number of the phone I knew Jackie was unlikely to be carrying with her. By the time the three hours mark was approaching, I wondered why, even if she hadn’t got my messages. she hadn’t phoned me. Much longer and my fingers would have been too frozen to press any digits. (I almost wrote ‘dial any number’, but we don’t do that any more do we? Any more than we ‘pull the chain’ when we flush the lavatory, unless we are using Michael and Heidi’s outside one).
Helen and Bill live a few minutes drive from where I was. Indeed, whilst I had been gazing longingly at ‘The Inn on the Furlong’, virtually opposite where I was standing, they had probably been inside enjoying a nice warm room and hot coffee.
I decided to call them for help. They were back home by then and Bill was settling down to watch a Leicester v Saracens rugby match. Jackie’s brother-in-law was most generous as he leapt to his feet when asked by Helen to go and get me. She didn’t even tell him the story as I heard her say ‘just go and get him’.
Virtually as I finished the call to Helen, Jackie phoned me. She was rather puzzled when I told her Bill was coming to collect me. She had received none of the messages, but had gone home for her second phone when she realised that her prime one had no juice left. I hadn’t left any messages on this secondary phone, and three hours was not up, so she was unaware that there was any cause for panic. I then tried to stop Bill coming out, but was, of course too late. Helen, by this time, had reached Jackie’s second phone and put her in the picture.
Bill calmly drove to the bus station, invited me to ‘get in quick’ and keep the cold out, and tactfully showed no curiosity about the story. He no doubt thought I would tell him in my own good time. I did. Now we knew all was well we could have a good laugh. And he didn’t even mention he was risking missing his rugby. He was sensibly recording it.
Jackie, in the meantime, had driven up and down all the roads I might have used, imagining that if she did find me she would be cutting short my walk. She even noticed the same washing line I had. As I was warming my hands and insides with Helen’s welcome coffee, Jackie arrived and was heard to utter ‘I believe you’ve got something belonging to me.’ When we got home we put the boosters on all the heating to aid the thawing out process.
Tonight we dined on roast lamb followed by sticky toffee pudding. I drank Terre de Galets Cotes du Rhone 2012, bottle number 138579. Jackie abstained.