I’d slept fitfully. All night I had been tormented by ghostly visions of being chased through an empty house. My mother was there in an evening dress and an unbecoming hat shouting at me from the top of a balcony about breaking a window. Who was going to clear up the mess? She wanted to know. Me too I remembered thinking looking down at my bare feet. And even my ex-boyfriend showed up, trailing me along deserted corridors and up and down stairs with outstretched arms demanding to know why I didn’t want us to get a hamster. A Hamster? Where on earth had that come from? Crazy dreams that disciples of Freud would no doubt interpret as my repressed and unconscious mind acting out in free association all the latent oddities of my personality. Bloody hell, did this mean that my Inner Sally was about to rise to the surface? I certainly hope not. I have no wish at all to make her acquaintance. Things could turn ugly. I’d probably need to take out a restraining order on myself.
When I did wake at nearly six o’clock it was to a bright clear morning and a fresh sense of purpose. I now lived in the country and in the country people go for walks, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. And so that’s what I would do. I’d walk. Well… first I’d drive. But then I’d walk.
In thrillers, it’s nearly always an early dog-walker that discovers the body. Benjie or Lillie or Lola races off in to the woods after a squirrel and comes bounding back with a severed hand or mud-caked stiletto. Not a great way to start one’s day and so I made sure, just in case, to keep to the paths. As I came to a fork where the track wound its way either down to a stream or snaked up the hill I met a lady with a giant brown poodle. We said good morning because again, that’s what people do in the country. They talk to one another. And I asked her if the dead-body thing ever concerned her. She looked at me for a moment and then looked down at her dog.
“It’s retrievers that fetch things, not poodles”
Which wasn’t much of an answer I thought.
“But aren’t poodles supposed to be very intelligent?” I asked
“Not this one” she said and headed off up the track.
And I thought dog owners had a reputation for friendliness.
I took the opposite direction and made my way down to the stream. I was enjoying myself. The air smelt of earth and leaves and a tang of wild-garlic.
Birds busied themselves doing whatever it is that birds do at this time of the year. Feeding their young I supposed which had to be a full-time job. All those tiny open beaks waiting back at the nest for Mr and Mrs Blackbird or Blue Tit or Sparrow to bring back the bacon…or…worm…… must be a pressure. Do male birds feed their young? I wondered or was it just the females? I’d have to look that up. Or ask someone who knows about these things.
Only some of the wild flowers I discovered could I identify. There were celandine and wood anemones and cowslips and a white daisy type flower that I thought might be called stitchwort. Then, growing low under a hedgerow I spotted something that took me straight back to the early days of my childhood. The plant with its violet hooded petals, had once been considered the famous herb of healing, Prunella or Self-Heal. I remembered quite distinctly the first few lines of the poem from my copy of Flower Fairies of the Wayside, one of a set of books that I had treasured:
When little elves have cut themselves
Or mouse has hurt her tail…
And in the watercolour drawing a fairy in a lilac smock tended the knee of an elf with tiny gossamer wings perched on a toad-stool, whilst a spotted yellow frog and a mouse looked on. No sign of any hamsters I recalled. My unconscious brain really must have decided to have a clear out of its filing system if it had brought that long-forgotten poem back.
I stooped down to pick some of the flowers. They’d look lovely in a jam-jar on my kitchen table but they needed something else. I retraced my path back to where those daisy type flowers that may or may not be stitchwort grew.
In the car park, I ran in to the woman with the slow-on-the-uptake poodle.
She looked at my handful of flowers.
“Whilst picking wild flowers is not actually illegal it is frowned upon”
“Oh” I said, “I didn’t know that”
“It’s considered very bad form”
“Right. I get it” I said, my Inner Sally beginning to get a bit pissed off at her tone.
“I’ll be sure to remember that for next time”
She opened the boot of her Range Rover, the poodle jumped in and she got in the car.
I noticed a poo-bag that she’d left on the ground, close to but not in the bin. I knocked on her window.
“Now that is illegal” I said, pointing to the bag “And personally I consider it very ill-mannered”
That’s one up for Inner Sally I thought.
TO BE CONTINUED