When she learned through on-line Scrabble chat that I walk every day regardless of the weather, my friend June suggested that I must be mad. This would be a view shared by the head of Bromley’s Probation service during the 1980s. One of my freelance contracts was to facilitate a support group for senior probation officers. During one particularly bad winter, possibly 1986/7, I was due to take a session one morning when the snow lay thick upon the ground. Traffic was in chaos. Trains were suffering from ‘the wrong kind of snow’. But I had my running shoes. Provided I was careful, and sometimes ran off piste, I could cross London quite quickly. On this occasion I arrived in Bromley, on time, having run from Gracedale Road in Furzedown, SW17. I was the only group member in attendance. The manager didn’t want to pay me, because she thought it a bit out of order to have turned up on a day like that. However, I had a contract which I had wished to honour. After some negotiation I received half my fee, which seemed a compromise I would have to accept.
This morning we had been promised heavy rain making its way from Southampton. A cock crew as I set off early down Running Hill in an effort to beat the blast. The Met Office must have been in touch with the sheep on the road up to Furzey Gardens because they had sought shelter from the open field. Further on, our neighbour Bill was walking his two Old English sheepdogs which he said were shorn when the sheep were shorn.
A solitary equestrian rider passed me on the heath beside the waterlogged cycle track. And the end of this I took the road towards Fritham and turned off left to a sign marked Linwood which I made my goal.
Before the turn-off I noticed, strewn at irregular intervals, oranges on the right side of the road. My puzzlement increased as I continued along the road, until, on the left hand side I discovered a further crop that had been ditched. The teeth marks on one of the discarded ones suggested this was a variation of the popular Halloween pastime involving apples and a tub of water.
The clopping of coconut shells by a cinematographic sound effects man on the road behind me signalled the extremely rare sight of galloping ponies. They had possibly been attracted by the arrival of a mini coachload of ramblers, whose lack of proffered goodies probably disappointed them and brought them to a standstill. Their more cynical companions who hadn’t bothered to cross the road, merely glanced up and continued cropping the heath.
It was my nostrils on the Linwood road, that alerted me to the controlled burning that culls the bracken.
I turned right at a road junction to which a gang of Hampshire council workmen were working their way replenishing the grit on the verges, in an attempt to stem the tide, thus reducing the numerous rock pools. Having walked past and through some deep enough to harbour crabs, I was able to tell them what they were in for. They were going need a few more lorry loads.
The storm struck just as I reached the Red Shoot pub at Linwood. I got pretty wet seeking a phone signal in order to ring Jackie, tell her where I was, and, since I was expecting her to drive me home, invite her to lunch. She also had to bring my wallet. The hospitality of the staff at this excellent establishment extended to offering to start me a tab so I could have a drink whilst I was waiting. They also lent me a couple of lengths of till roll and a biro with which to amuse myself writing notes for this post.
Roast chicken was our evening accompaniment to the last of the burgundy for me and the Latitude 35 degrees S for Jackie.