Saturday 4th August 2012
“DUCK coming, Gappadee. Me feed it.”
We have bird seed, in a plastic bag. The young mallards are unimpressed, as if demanding bread: a junk-food diet fed by our appetite for anthropomorphism.
“Don’t worry, they’re all friendly,” calls a bouncy woman, following three bouncy dogs on to the bridge: a frequently-heard disclaimer: too many reports of too many maulings by the savage pets of too many mindless owners.
Indolence and the excuse of too much work have prevented my doing the walk for some weeks, during which time greenery, given the go to grow, has filled every gap in meadow and hedgerow.
The mill-stream has relaxed back into meander mode, thick with rush and sedge: a dame walking dog-lilies under grey-white skies.
There is no sign of frog or goose, long burrowed under undergrowth, the menagerie neglected by its weak keeper of promises… though I do espy the tiny eye of a koala, still clinging to its branch beyond the wall.
“We have to put our jackets on, Gappadee.”
The first spots of rain. It won’t occur to her that I’m carrying no rucksack from which to draw extra clothing or refreshment. Living in the now is what infants do best.
“Or shelter under that big tree.”
She nods, watching the dance and hop of a butterfly.
I had intended to explain that this walk is my garden, to show off the nooks and buried nuggets, but am content instead to follow her merry steps, to learn the ground anew. I am sixty years her senior, but today we stroll at the same languid pace; breathe the same wisps of air; lollop up the same paths; as if made only for these moments.
When I die – which, whenever it is, will be sooner rather than later – I hope to be remembered not as a writer or thinker, but as father and grandfather: a journeyman crossing life’s brief landscape hand-in-hand with his offspring.
I lift my youngest granddaughter on to creaking shoulders, raising her closer to the sky. We wave goodbye to the parkland and head down the hill, kissed by falling drops of gentle rain.