The problem with the world of lockdown is that it’s not particularly worth going anywhere. I was walking through town yesterday and perhaps 1% of people were wearing masks in the street. Then the minute they went into a shop, the mask was donned. (I’m the same, I wear a tube scarf, pull it up on the way in through the door and push it down as I go outside into the air so I can breathe again.)
But shopping has become a utilitarian experience, go in, get the stuff you want, leave. Damn, reminds me, I still need a new pair of trainers, but it’s not as if there’s any hurry. I’m still not going anywhere where I’ll need to wear them.
But yesterday I had a legitimate reason for travel. I’d nip to the vets for a worming tablet and some ‘Frontline’ for Sal.
Our Vets work out of Broughton and that’s where I was headed. So far the furthest I’ve been since March is nine miles to a neighbouring church to dig a hole for burial of ashes. It’s not fear of travelling, it’s just why travel for pleasure when there’s no pleasure? But now I had an excuse. I caught the train north to Foxfield. I had a carriage with three other people in it. Then leaving Foxfield there’s a nice path which leads you round the back and through some pleasant country. It eventually brings you to Broughton. That’s where the view comes from, looking north. Then as I dropped down into Broughton, that’s where I overheard the first conversation. Now it’s amazing what you hear as you walk past people or they walk past you.
Man to neighbour in garden below. “What sort of idiot goes abroad on holiday at a time like this?”
Man, “Yes, more money than sense.”
Then the vets. Get the stuff I need, and head back. As I passed the cake shop (with a queue that stretched half way down the street) I heard the second conversation.
Elderly lady in queue to family she’s chatting with. “So where are you from?”
Man, “Byker in Newcastle.”
Elderly lady. “I was from Burnopfield.”
Man, “That’s Durham.”
I walked down to Foxfield and decided to walk on to Kirkby to get the train from there. This route leads across the Angerton Mosses. It’s a world of its own, tucked away and forgotten. The land is never less than damp and walking through the area I suspect people were glad to get silage off when they did. I wouldn’t fancy trying to take a second cut anytime soon. The ground had that feel you get when there’s more water in it than it needs. Move tractors or a dairy herd across it and you could start making a mess.
By the time I got to Kirkby it was getting hot. Seriously hot. I had a choice of three routes. One would take me up and over the fells to my east. I’ve done it before, it’s a bit of a slog but not something I fancied with the thermometer heading up towards thirty. Then there was the path which follows the coast down. Again I’ve done it and it can be pleasant, but not at the temperatures we were heading for. So I got the train to Barrow and walked home along the route of the old railway line. This is where I got the next two conversations.
Young woman One to young woman Two and young woman Three, “I was just back from furlough and then I got this email…”
Young woman Two, “You’ve got the same bag that I’ve got.”
Young woman One, “Yes but it’s a different colour.”
The old line is a popular route for walkers and cyclists. When the weather is like this, it’s also quite well shaded but still somehow catches any breeze that is going. And the final conversation.
Lady One to Ladies Two and Three, “…and they hired this whole building to move office staff into because of the pandemic and Heather is in there all on her own. She loves it.”
And home. At this point I give Sal the worming tablet. They must have done something with the flavourings because I pass it to her and she happily eats it. Then I have to put the Frontline on her. I’ve put ‘Spot on’ on dairy cows many many times. You just squirt it at them from a ‘worming gun’. It’s a doddle of a job. You just walk through them like a particularly officious celebrant laying about him with the holy water.
Frontline comes in a small vial, you snap the top off. Then you put the end as close to the skin on the dog’s back as you can get, under the hair, and squeeze. For some reason Sal dislikes this, and unless I have one hand clamped firmly round her collar, she wiggles off. I suspect it’s purely the sensation of cold liquid on the back of her neck. It cannot be that the stuff stings or anything because the minute I stop squeezing she is full of bounce and ready to go and do something useful.
So I collect the bucket and some tub and we wander off down the Mosses to feed the heifers and check that the dry cows are all right. The temperature has dropped and I have no doubt we’ll have rain before dark. It’s actually rather pleasant.
Given the way the weather is at the moment, sitting with a good book is not a bad idea.
Instead of his usual collection of anecdotes, this time Tallis presents us with a gripping adventure. Why is Tallis ‘run out of town’ by hired ruffians? Why does a very sensible young woman want his company when plunging into unknown danger? Who or what was buried in the catacombs? And why has there been so much interest in making sure they stay dead? Also featuring flower arranging, life on the river, and a mule of notable erudition.
As a reviewer commented, “Tallis Steelyard is a poet with champagne tastes on a beer budget. Chased out of town, and into the bay, by irate creditors, he’s rescued by a passing boat and given the opportunity to become a part of the crew. Thereafter follow a series of adventures, many funny, before Tallis can finally return home again.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story and recommend it highly!”