Updated: Aug 15
Hearing a roaring engine, seeing her wobbling with each step as she moved over the pedestrian crossing, I stuck my arm in to the road. The engine didn’t slow. I waved my hand. The huge blue tractor continued pelting towards us. I stepped off the security of the pavement, waved my crutch. The young daredevil driver’s face stiffened as his monstrous machine stopped breaking the speed limit and slewed to a halt half a pace from the old woman’s feeble frame.
She hadn’t noticed. I waited until she had crossed and as the tractor sped up, I asked if she was enjoying the sunshine. This encouraged her to sit on the comfortable seat of her frame and out poured a torrent of joyful chatter as she told me that each morning she walked around the perimeter of the flaying fields. Perched upon my crutch, I listened in awe, exhausted having only done a third of her distance. “I hate my disability. It began three months ago when I fell.” I smiled, if only mine had lasted so little time. And she’s angry, aged 88, that she is fitter than I have now become. It is how we see our situations.
I told her the town was perfect, friendly, just the right size to walk around and out in to the surrounding countryside. She disagreed. “I don’t like this town now. It was wonderful. When I walked to work, cows blocked the street as farmers took them to market twice a week. You’d spot one poor creature awaiting its fate outside the butchers. An ox cart would block the street as it unloaded produce for the vegetable shop.”
“I grew up on a small holding, we grew vegetables, one neighbour had pigs, the others had sheep, so we exchanged what we required without using money. When my father went to the war, young lads freely helped my mother and us girls work the land. Everyone got along well, you had to, you needed one another and your lives were as difficult as each other’s. Money wasn’t something we had much of.”
Needing to escape the house after days sleeping and slouching though no fault of my own, in the afternoon we drove into the countryside. Under the dappled shade of apple trees, my wife and I sipped cider and apple juice and ate the best burgers ever. Two guitarists and a double bass mingled and mixed numbers from favourite old pop songs there in a famous cider producer’s orchards. It was the perfect Covid entertainment, for every tree had its little group. Our neighbours four metres away were a young couple from London. They told us how people their street had looked after one another during Lockdown, how the shops delivered, how they ensured the elderly were cared for. It was heartwarming. “We who had previously been too busy being Londoners, became a community and we now have deep ties which will last.”
Ha, what a day, serendipity at its best.