Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Tales from Elsewhere - Mind How You Go...

Hilda looked in stunned amazement at the damage done to her car 10 seconds earlier. 

She had been taking her 10-year old son Bobby to school down the solitary, narrow Somerset country lane which linked their home to the outside world, concerned that they would be late, since his carpool lift hadn’t shown up for some reason.  They had waited at home for half an hour before setting out, so were running much later than usual, and she wondered fleetingly if she had been going too fast.  But on Church Lane “fast” didn’t apply.  The tarmacked track was 11ft wide – less so when the hedges hadn’t been trimmed by the council, and she was normally very careful.  This had been a head-on collision of two cars moving at a sedate pace.

They had lived in the village since their children were tiny, back in the late 1950’s, when they purchased an acre of land on a hill which overlooked the Somerset levels from the Church, in whose ownership it had been since the 1300’s, and built their timber framed house and swimming pool.  In church records the plot was known as The South Plantation, and the name was retained, making it sound as if it were a property next door to Tara in Gone with the Wind. 

The acid soil had ensured that they had a spectacular garden with camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons in a profusion of all different colours, and a carpet of English bluebells every spring.  Hilda’s husband Ted had so landscaped the land that the sitting-room’s ample windows looked on to levelled land which dropped away into a ha-ha at the boundary, giving the illusion of ownership of the vista as far as the eye could see.

Having a very narrow lane going past the house ensured that heavy vehicles seldom ventured down there and they frequently heard tooting horns as cautious drivers negotiated every small (blind) bend in the lane.  In unusually harsh winters they stocked up on supplies because it was unlikely that snow ploughs would get to them for weeks at a time, and on one memorable occasion in 1978 Hilda, Ted and their youngest son Bobby were delighted when the grown up siblings visited them with their wives and partners for Christmas and were unable to get home until a week into the new year. 

Quiet and pastoral it was, yet there was the occasional drama.  Ted, erstwhile war hero, captain of industry, writer of books and leader of  men, while trying to repair the up-and-over-door of the garage, managed to lock himself in one afternoon.  He climbed on a box to attempt to reach a high rise window, the box collapsed and as he fell he dislocated his hip – again. 

Hilda was in town till late afternoon and he lay there for two and a half hours, his otherwise commanding and loud voice of no use to him at all.  Presently he heard a neighbour walking by outside and managed to attract her attention, which meant that before long the fire brigade was in attendance to get to him the other side of the jammed door of the garage, and an ambulance to take him to hospital.  Hilda came over the brow of the hill just in time to behold flashing lights, various people milling about and her husband being inserted into an ambulance.

Their tom cats also regretted having found a hidey-hole in the shed where warmer and drier shelter could be found among the canvas sun loungers and spare tennis nets.  When they disappeared for a few days Hilda and Ted had reconciled themselves to the fact that they might never know what had happened to them, but were destined to be proved wrong when Ted went to the shed to get something, and on opening the door, two extremely thin, screeching black streaks flew passed him in a blur and made for the kitchen.  What had saved their lives was the fact that it had been raining, and the shed leaked somewhat.   Their miraculous faculties didn’t end there – Hilda and Ted came back from holiday once to find their ‘tom cat’ nursing kittens.

Hilda waited for the driver of the offending car to get out, reflecting indignantly that in twenty-five years she had never even met anyone coming the other way on the lane, and what were the chances of meeting someone at precisely the time she was using it and was on one of the blind bends?

In fact the odds were high, because the lady who got out of the car looking equally stunned was the mother of Bobby’s friend, who shared carpool duties with Hilda.  Her son was also in the passenger seat.  Each mother had thought that it was the other’s turn, had waited at home for half an hour before setting out feeling stressed about getting their son to school late, and wondering what the other mother was doing.

The husbands reluctantly stumped up the repair fees on the cars, and thereafter if you were driving Ted home from anywhere, he would invariably tell you just before each of Church Lane’s blind bends –

“Remember to toot!”


Photo Finish
from Lonicera's non-digital archives

Pot Pourri

Fuerteventura (Canary Islands) above & below

Bristol Gilbert & Sullivan Operatic Society: 
The Pirates of Penzance 2008 (above & below)

One of the stalls at a street antique market in the suburb of San Telmo, Buenos Aires, in 1994.  If the detail interests you it's worth enlarging to see the interesting Eastern European paintings and the other bric-a-brac.


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