Walking along the lanes, I began to approach territory familiar from several holidays at my grandparents’ house, back when I was a child/teenager/young man.
In those days I would often walk alone, away from the cottage, along these very roads. In today’s heat and middleage, heading towards the remembered place, I imagined that I might encounter some earlier version of myself walking the other way, strolling unconcerned. Perhaps, as in Derek Walcott’s poem Love After Love,
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
Maybe this wasn’t the time, though I did get a nice meal. Unlike my normal solo, narcissistic wanderings, today was to be a sociable occasion.
I met up with Jennie again down by Mentmore green, and we headed to the Stag to have lunch with Wendy, a friend and former colleague. Despite being a few minutes late already, I darted into an unmanned charity bookstall for a few seconds. A quick glance confirmed the lack of rare pulp, but based on the title I bought a book called Strange Holiday by Geoffrey Lapage. This turned out to be a Famous Five style children’s book in which a stretch of south Wales is transformed into ‘the country of the adventure’, complete with a map. Lapage has a varied output, including The Ladybird Book of Bedtime Rhymes and Nematodes parasitic in animals… but I digress.
Into the Stag, where a nice lunch was had.
We met up with Wendy’s husband Rich, and their awesome kids Finn and Ellie. While Jennie went off to a National Trust, we walked along a tree-lined avenue where I remember having picnics and climbing trees.
We ended up at another pub, in Cheddington. We hadn’t foiled any smugglers, but in a small way we had made the territory into a ‘map of adventure’. The walk, one of the shortest, was over… but the blogging isn’t.
To be continued