Walking Back To Happiness
A new hobby opens doors in Val Bonsall’s perceptive complete story.
THIS is pretty,” I remark to the girl on a nearby cash till as I reach out to touch the soft, new-leaf green. When I tell you we’re in a garden centre, you’ll think I’m talking about a plant. But I’m not. Like most garden centres these days, this one sells a lot more than gardening stuff. And it seems busy with these other lines, too – we, for example, came in specifically for the café.
“We” are a walking group. Most of us are retired or nearing it, and we meet every week. We take a bus, or sometimes a train, into the surrounding countryside and stride out, up hill and down dale – as long as there’s a cup of tea somewhere on the way! Hence our stop at the garden centre with its café.
We particularly need that hot cuppa at the moment with winter, though at the end of its grip, still holding on tight.
This centre has a sizeable clothes display, and what’s taken my eye is a silk top – as I said, a lovely leaf green.
“Buy it, Jan,” a voice behind me says. “It’ll suit you.”
I turn to see Adrian who I’d say is our leader, except we don’t have one. But he’s the one who plans the routes after taking into consideration the suggestions the rest of us make. He does a good job of it, too.
Behind him, I see everyone getting ready for the return hike.
“I haven’t time to try it on,” I say, “and this is a walk, not a shopping trip. I don’t want to be laden with parcels.”
“It’s light enough to put in your backpack, or if you haven’t room, I’ll take it. We can wait a few minutes.”
“No, it’s OK.” I turn away from the clothing rail. “Really.”
We start the return trek to the village where we’ll get our bus back to town. Adrian walks beside me as he often does, with me being the new girl. He mentions the top. “You should have bought it, Jan. The green matched your eyes.”
“Green? Her eyes aren’t green,” Robert, who’s striding alongside us, argues.
“It isn’t a green that hits you in the face,” Adrian insists, “but there is green there, if
I had joined the rambling group but had never let myself be a real part of it. Now it was time for that to
change . . .
you look.” He’s right. But you do have to look. “If you say so.” Robert laughs and is now already a couple of paces ahead of us. “You’re the one who’s into colours, Mr Rainbow!”
I smile at Robert’s nickname for Adrian, based on the brightly coloured hats, scarves and big jumpers that he always wears. Some days he does indeed look like a rainbow!
“Seriously, though,” Adrian continues when we’re alone again, “it was very you, Jan. And I could see you liked it, so why didn’t you buy it? It didn’t seem very expensive . . .”
“It’s nothing to do with that.” I cut him off.
I’m getting a bit irritated, probably mostly because I don’t know quite how to answer.
“It’s just how I am,” I finish. “How I was raised. I don’t buy things unless I need them and I’ve got wardrobes full of stuff at home, anyway.”
I think Adrian must have caught the annoyance in my voice because he says no more about it.
The conversation on the bus is more general. That’s when people put forward suggestions for future walks, for Adrian to then look at more closely and sort out the detail. He has hiked all his life and seems to have maps of everywhere!
IT was my son who got me all the information about the group, after we lost his dad. He started nagging me as the year rolled on.
“You’re sitting about too much, Ma.” He’s always called me “Ma”. “You need to go out more.”
My daughter then joined in with her brother and in the end I enrolled, really to please them. That was at the start of the New Year. For the f irst mile or so of that f irst walk I thought, never again – you won’t see me here next week! The air was cold, the ground hard, and the sky . . . oh, please, don’t rain!
But then I got into it, I suppose, and that night, back at home, I realised I had enjoyed it. Now I am formally one of them, with one of their diaries and everything!
The following week we go to a reservoir, stopping at a nearby old mill that’s been turned into a kind of heritage centre. It has a café, of course! This is where Adrian’s homework comes in useful – he always finds us somewhere to take a break.
They’ve done up the café area, but not too much, with the result that it has a kind of sparse beauty with its flagged floor and exposed brickwork.
Big windows, too. I suppose the original owner wanted to save on lighting. Doubtless those who worked here all those years ago barely had time to notice, but the windows also provide a wonderful view.
I’m pondering on how the landscape is starting to come to life again – just little signs, but they’re there – when Adrian comes and sits next to me.
“What you said last week doesn’t make sense, you know.” “Huh?” “You said you were raised just to buy things if you needed them, and that that’s how you are.” “Yes.” “But in the next breath you said you had cupboards full of clothes. So if you’ve only ever bought things as you need them, how did you accumulate all that stuff?”
I’m spared from having to answer by his daughter joining us. She’s come along with her dad today. I gathered immediately that she does this occasionally, since everyone else seems to know her and is pleased to see her, too.
She’s rather like her father, in manner if not dress sense. She’s wearing quiet