Saturday 21st January 2012
EWEN, Pinfarthings, Duntisbourne Abbots, and Box: you can still get there by bus – except on Sundays of course – but you may have to endure intricate valleys, majestic woodland, grazing sheep, burbling brooks, birds on the wing, arched rainbows and all the other palaver of the English countryside. Best take your i-phone, in case you get bored.
“How long you been doing this then?”
“Since ’92. Four years with this company.”
“Yeah, s’alright; especially the passengers; they won’t get on unless I insult them.”
Steve is typical of the drivers on the rural services: affable, reliable, down-to-earth. I thought he handled the incident with the dog woman remarkably well, considering. Mind you, he did rattle us along afterwards, to make up for lost time.
It took me two and a quarter hours today to get back home from Stroud, thirteen miles away. Had to go via Cheltenham. The sun came out as we passed through Painswick, where Charles I camped during the Civil War. He is said to have gone up to the Beacon and, on seeing the valley to the east, declared:
“This must be Paradise.”
A hamlet of that name is still there, just off the A46.
I was in Stroud to say farewell to Harry, a lovely, lively young woman whose journey has ended in cancer. The bus is a good place for reflecting upon the smallness of being, the brevity of our walk over hill and vale. There are no return tickets.
Her coffin was blue. We wept in good measure; laughed at tales of her mischief; clapped too; and cheered the departing box of her atoms: a beautiful sadness, tender and harmonious.
The thing with the dog woman happened a few weeks ago on that narrow lane between Sapperton and Frampton Mansell. A muddy landrover-type wagon, parked where the bus couldn’t pass.
“You’ll just have to wait,” she flared. “I need to let the dogs out. I’ve had it up to here with your buses coming down these lanes.”
Steve shook his head; passengers muttered; dogs sniffed trees.
I watched the clouds, playing pillow games.