I opened a British Medical Journal yesterday and the obituaries were there; earnest distinguished looking doctors, predominantly men, Roger Bannister foremost amongst them. The world reveres him for his four minute mile, yet he researched and practiced in Neurology and had a list of qualifications as long as my arm.
Our revels now are ended. Shakespeare is famous for the beauty and pleasure and truths in his works. Will I be remembered for anything? Does it matter?
When I die, I don’t expect an obituary in the BMJ, or one in the local paper. I don’t even know I know if I lengthened, or shortened, anyone’s life. If I’m lucky, some people may remember I was kind when their loved one died.
What will survive me? I like to hope a wood full of birds.
Last spring, we were faithful at topping up some birdfeeders, and a pair of woodpeckers started coming down from the wood behind us, eventually raising two young, which they often fed on our balcony rail. This summer there are another two, bouncing and teetering on the rail as their mother brings them food. On Sunday we went for a walk in the next valley and three woodpeckers flew through the trees above us, in a place we’d not seen woodpeckers before. Have we helped populate a wood with woodpeckers? I want that to be true. It’s a little thing, one that maybe only lasts a year beyond my death, until a severe winter decimates their population, but that’s enough.
It was a dry sunny day when I first saw him. As I walked along the beck, the trees over hanging it swayed and rustled in the breeze and sent dappled light to dance on the water. Amongst the patterns was a patch that remained steady. After a while I realised it was a head of straw coloured hair, and I glimpsed moving branches that were, perhaps, brown arms and legs. A tune sang through the bubble and tumble of the stream.
The sun dazzled me briefly as I approached. When I entered shadow again and my eyes could see, there was no sign of that figure.
A little dipper bird watched me from a mossy boulder. Just before I reached his part of the beck he flew upstream a few yards and perched again, bobbing his head a few times. He continued ahead of me, skimming the stream, and dipping in and out of the flowing water as he went. The swooshing of water played beside me, with a faint tune fading in and out. Time seemed endless. Now was yesterday, and tomorrow, and last year, and maybe even last millennium. The beck unchanged and timeless. But when I reached the end of the trees and shadows, I realised the bird and music had gone; I was alone, and it was now once more.
Mungrisdale Writers’ AwayDay at Cumrew House Thursday 25th May 2017 10.30am – 3pm
Chair Cathy Johnson is co-ordinating our AwayDay this year, by kind invitation of Mungrisdale Writer Kit Hollings. In the glorious Eden Valley, Kit’s home is the wonderful old Manor, Cumrew House, a perfect setting, coupled with Kit’s lovely hospitality, to encourage the creativity of all who are able to share in the opportunity. Flyer here (pdf), with details and travel directions.
Two cups of hot water, a dish of lemon slices, a hot chocolate, with cream and marshmallows, and a plate of toast and marmalade arrive at the table. Melissa waves her bony wrist at the boy, gold bangles jangling. Jennifer wiggles her fingers crammed with rings, and scoops up a marshmallow.
I write because I want to tell myself things, and I don’t know what it is I have to tell until I’ve written it. Sometimes I surprise and please myself. But I’m scared what comes out will reveal an uninteresting, unsophisticated or unlikeable self. So, most often, I don’t write.
I saw a man, and so did the other driver, but the court went with the camera footage.
It showed me run the red light, and the other car swerving off the road. No sign of the figure in a fluorescent jacket waving me through them roadworks. Just darkness.
I hear they’ve still not fixed that there tarmac, and a car’s fetched up in the lake. Another lad’s in court, but this time it’s manslaughter. The same insurance company and their same useless dashboard camera, mind. And of course there’s no film of a workman in a fluorescent jacket.