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  • iaindryden1

Finding the positives

14 May

It is not often life gets me down, and each time, I try to rise above it.

“Good morning, how are you!”

“I feel despondent,” I answered. The words blurted out of me and I hardly knew this person.

He retorted in that non-committal English way, “Oh, it’ll be alright.”

I heard myself continuing, “We’re overwhelmed by this house we’ve bought. For years it’s been ignored. Everywhere you look there’s problems, inside and out. For example, we’ve discovered these windows are rotten… and on it goes.”

Baffled, he said, “Oh, it’ll be a lovely house.”

“Eventually,” I shrugged.

I ought to have said nothing; being from a land where up-front honesty was prevalent, as always, I’d broken a cardinal English social rule, but that morning our future looked bleak.

Everything felt too much. We’d unwittingly bought an uninhabitable house - badly leaking bathroom, useless kitchen, rotten floors upstairs. And then after working two days, our builder caught the coronavirus.

Ironically, last autumn, due to my already poor health diminishing, we sold an idyllic rural cottage with the most amazing garden; it would have been the perfect retreat during these corona-times.

It’s been a tough, testing winter. With our stuff in storage, we’ve been camping in an empty rental. With our luxury a metal bench, we pine for comfort, even healthy people would. In this discomfort, I caught two unpleasant viruses, had knock-out flu, suffered shingles, then fibromyalgia, then the worse polymyalgia… Unsurprisingly, I’ve been left a wreck. The loan to fund the surprising work has been frozen due to the corona-situation, so we’ve been forced to take out an expensive bridging loan, on top of paying for the rental and the new house. So we’ve been living on the edge. And then, as if it couldn’t get worse, we’ve had short notice to quit the rental in two weeks.

No wonder it felt a depressing morning. I took a deep breath.’ This,’ I told myself, ‘is our reality, it’s what it is, it could be worse.’ What we allow to dominate our attention affects our brains, drags us down. Or pulls us up.

As if life was waiting for me to get so low, the next day our builder rang saying he’ll be back in a week. To celebrate, because at last we’re allowed to travel to exercise, we drove to Dartmoor. Parking high, we walked the rolling hill. We sat on a granite ledge under a holly tree to admire views across swathes of southern England and the glorious curving coastline. We could see forever. My heart sang. It was as if I was back in Kenya. We walked past a large family of wild Dartmoor ponies at rest upon the heath, sprawled down the slope, a foal flat out on it’s back, another watched us with curiosity then fell back dramatically, head flopping downhill, and it was asleep.

We picnicked under a tor which resembled a Kenyan koppie. As we rose, we spotted a lone foal glistening black in the sunshine. It whinnied. It skipped in the air. It dashed here, it sped over there. It was lost. “It’s the same age as the ones we saw earlier,” my wife noted.

The foal galloped in bounds up to a near by tor, it's legs flicking out sideways as they do. It was rejected by the family cluster there and shot downhill in bounds and leaps and over another ridge and towards another family group, but was again shoved away. It stood, forlorn, panting, even at that distance could see its chest heaving. Another attempt, over what had become a slightly busy road, down to where we had seen the original small herd, Skitting here, skitting there.Looking in every direction. It was exhausted. Whinnying, pining for its mother. And back over the road. Cars stopped. All of them. A cyclist in lycra, insensitive, wouldn’t, he peddled far too close. Fast. Filming the incident. Camera at its face. The foal, disturbed, dashed across the road and uphill to another family and they tried to push it away, but in desperation, it ignored them and for five minutes, stayed amongst them.

In the distance we spotted a larger group speeding towards us. A mare was whinnying. The foal looked up, was confused. They galloped in full flight across the curve of the valley and towards the road. It was magnificent. The mare was at the front, her stallion and his other females behind her. She broke away. They stopped. She crossed the road. Went towards the smaller family. The stallion went to confront her, but saw her determination and took his head to one side as she slid past his muscular body and to her foal that he’d been protecting. He’d realised. She nudged it. The foal then followed her trotting as she returned to the small herd.

We, emotional this past forty minutes, were elated. As were other walkers. The cars slowly, slowly, moved off.

Life, ah, life, grasp it whilst you can, rise above your worries.

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