Walk­ing Back To Hap­pi­ness

A new hobby opens doors in Val Bon­sall’s per­cep­tive com­plete story.

The People's Friend Special - - INSPIRING 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

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