Walking my way through grief.

CARDS – PIZZA & MOTION DETECTION

This is a story I wrote a few weeks ago and just shows how my life can yo-yo, but I’m sure it doesn’t just apply to me. I hope it doesn’t upset any of you .

Here we go again! But be warned, I have been having a bad time, but despite that, walking is helping, so just bear with me, we all make journeys, some in the mind, some by foot but they all take us to a better place, a better state of mind, a better peace, so just keep me company virtually and walk a while with me.

I’ll take you back to Bank holiday Monday if I may. I suspect most of you were dreading the long weekend, like me, being semi, well mostly retired, it was just another day. Most weekends are a sad occasion, seeing families and couples milling about going about normal like in contrast to my so called new life, but we all have to get used to stuff we don’t want to, and I’m no different. For me I had to go into town and get some cards, and then decided to go for a trot afterwards.

I donned the usual walking attire, boots, shorts and rucksack; I had other clothes on as well, just in case you were conjuring up a bizarre image, but that’s my normal stuff. My rucksack has been with me for a long time, but it seems to be getting heavier each time I put it on and all I have is normal stuff like coat, towel, stick, tripod, first aid kit and other useful stuff just in case, but it defo is getting heavy.

Anyway, the weather couldn’t make up its mind and neither could I, so I stuck a fleece on just in case and trotted off to the town. After the usual walk down the railway track I made it to the point where I could take a side path to town and the card shop. I entered the card shop and instantly was confronted with Christmas cards! Well buying cards is still difficult, being confronted with wife, anniversary and now Christmas cards was hard, I am getting better at it but it is still painful. I’m the type of bloke that studies the words in the card for things I would say with sincerity, not just a rhyme or some corny false statement; it has to be as true as if I had written it myself, something I did regularly for my wife, and even then, when I do get the card, I have to write my own words in and then the hard bit, sign it as “love from Dad or Mike” not from “Mum and Dad or Carol and Mike”, I suppose I will get used to it or devise some symbol or something. So with cards found, I went to pay for them and paid the £15.00 for 6 stamps, not really, but they seem to be getting so much nowadays, and stashed my booty safely in my rucksack.

I spied across the road that Greggs where open. Lunch on the run I thought, so re-masked and went over to them, I purchased a ham and salad baguette, soft drink and avoided the sausage rolls and doughnuts on the way to the till. Well, the counter tempts you like some siren voluptuously posed on a rocks and makes you succumbed to your innermost desires, a steak bake, warm sausage rolls etc. I’m sure that they make you queue to be served so you can allow your eyes to bigger than your belly. I slowly move towards the lady behind the till, she asks “is that all” when it happens, you blurt out through a saliva filled gob “and I pizza slice please”, where did that come from? It was as though I suddenly suffered a fit or involuntary outburst as it was very loud and by the looks of all those around, quite alarming.

I stashed the food in my rucksack and exited the shop with haste, almost as though I had been thrown out by a bouncer, so keen was I to leave after such an outburst. I was getting warm so took off the fleece stuffed that in my rucksack and slung it over my shoulders. I decided to walk just out of town, about 3 miles to what is known as the flood park to devour my packaged pray.

As I walked along the streets I felt melancholy in mood, another bank holiday on my own, buying cards to be signed by me alone and buying a meal deal for one as well. The streets where busy but just streets, nothing to distract apart from the noise and smells from the slowed traffic, just a lack lustre process of going about your business with nothing to look forward too or distract your mind from the emptiness you feel. To make it worse, I could feel the warmth of the pizza on my back through the rucksack. It reminded me of the feeling of my wife cuddling up in bed steeling my heat but receiving some back in return. Its strange how things just pop into your mind and how easily they are triggered, and how it stays planted in your subconscious.

I walked along the road and thought, I have to get off this path so decided to turn right along a path that used to bisect a little bunch of businesses. I reflected upon what was there as I walked through the newish houses that now occupy the space. To my left used to be a chap who worked on motorbikes, in fact it was the place I used to take mine to. On the other side was a timber and builder’s merchant. This made me think of the time that we moved here. I purchased all sorts of stuff from them, and the used to post the bill through my door when they delivered it so I could pop back and pay, such trust.

The path was supposedly haunted by some headless soul on a horse, well I thought, I have enough ghosts feasting off my heart, one more won’t make a difference, so pushed on and passed under the railway track. I scrambled up the embankment and re-joined the railway path, turning right along the track.

Eventually I made it to the flood park, or West Town Park, and my lunch date with a bench overlooking the lake. The flood park had a sign depicting its purpose and construction. I have cycled passed this sign many a time but never stopped. This time I did and learnt two things. The flood park’s proper name was in fact “Haverhill Flood Storage Reservoir” or “Meldham Washlands” and the brownish double spotted butterfly I had seen is called a “Gate Keeper”

I knew of three places to stop and eat, so walking up the slope of the grass dam, I turned right and walked passed the first bench, preferring to be more solitary whilst scoffing my lunch. After about 500 yds the second bench came in site. This was the one I wanted, but within 50 yds of it a chap on a bike shot passed me and stopped at the bench. What! I thought that’s my bench, my glares at him, as I approached the bench, must have been felt through the coat, hat and hoody, that seems to be the costume of choice for youngsters today. As I got close I could smell the herbal cigarette his was having lunch with and decided to march past with purpose, failure to do so will no doubt allow me to fly round the remainder of the flood park perimeter embankments.

My last choice of bench was about a mile away and backed onto the busy road. I didn’t want that one but had no choice, like many things in life. I couldn’t help feel the heat from the Pizza slice was getting less and once again reflected on the realities of my life. Over the short period my wife was ill, we spent more and more time apart and I was feeling the comfort of her warmth less and less like the Pizza in by back pack.

There wasn’t anyone fishing the lake today, normally there are a bunch of anglers encamped on the shoreline equipped with vast amounts of equipment and tech which they stood guard and tinkered with like they were part of a moon landing project, but today, no one, just me and puffing billy on the bench some yards behind, luckily I was down wind of him so still had my feet on the ground. Speaking of which, two things presented themselves to me in close succession, first a single white feather, this has been suggested as an angel in my presence. Well, I don’t know, but wasn’t going to take any chances, so picked it up, gave it a gentle kiss and allowed a zephyr to take it on its journey. The second thing was a brownish double spotted butterfly, and with my new knowledge, I now know it’s a Gate Keeper. It was courteous enough to allow a picture to be taken; thanked it, then hastened my pace to the remaining bench for lunch.

Before I reached the bench I chanced upon a road sign, well nothing strange about that I can hear you say, but, it faces the path I’m on. I must investigate this! Well it’s either a really silly mistake or the planning office thought walkers in the path would benefit from knowing how to get to the superstore. I did actually go round to the road side to see if it’s true and it was. The cars cannot see the sign at all, so it must be for the walkers on the path!

I re-joined the path and after crossing a wooden bridge and after a short walk I make it to the last bench, I sat myself down, ate my baguette quaffed a drink and searched out the now cold pizza slice. The pizza had accurately chronicled my recent past. All was fine and happy in our bubble and we shared mutual warmth but the dreadful cancer was consuming my wife without our knowledge and slowly but surely we were losing our heat until now, I find myself without any warmth, without my wife, alone with a cold pizza.

After eating my lunch I totted off, visiting another notice board with additional information en-route, which I duly photographed for us all to study at leisure. On leaving the flood park I returned to the streets, different streets, more open, less traffic and the laughter of children enjoying the play equipment with family, oblivious of the troubles and stresses of their life ahead. I smiled at their innocence and mused on the thought that youth is wasted on the young.

I eventually returned to the railway track, a constant in my solitary walking life, and eventually after a few miles entered East Town Park. I have walked to West Town Park and walked to East Town Park by road path a disused railway, a route of discovery, reflection and realisation. I veer off the track and enter the park via a bridge. This bridge spans the Stour brook, and is known as Pooh Bridge after the adventures of Christopher Robin. We as a young family threw sticks from one side to see who would win by their stick passing under the other side first. Again I reflected upon how this bridge has stood witness to our families life, once supporting laughter from the excitement and anticipation of one of four sticks passing the post first, now it just bears witness to the passing of our time, but waits patiently for the next family to enjoy the time honoured game of pooh sticks.

After spending nearly 50 years together, you get used to just being with each other, you are in a bubble and that’s all you need. When you are alone, you really start to appreciate what alone means. I have a watch that tells me all sorts of things and display messages as well. Most of the time I use it to see how many miles I have done, heart rate at the gym and control my camera and music in my ears. I also look at it for texts, my link to the world I wish I had. But as time marches on the texts become less and the only thing that vibrates my wrist is a warning “Motion Detected” the message from one of my cctv cameras, probably from a passing car or the colony of spiders that seem to like making the cameras their home. For the first time in my life, I appreciate how bad loneliness is and need to think more about those that are alone, especially now the nights are closing in

So this brings the story of my journey of 7.5 miles to an end, at just a little before 3.00 am, thanks to my relentless insomnia. It seems fitting that my best friend the radio is now playing Ed Sheeran’s new song “Visiting Hours” oh how I wish that heaven had visiting hours.

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I enjoyed your journey and can empathise with the sentiments expressed. You are still very young and so that is a double blow. You must have been childhood sweethearts so spent all of your life together. I am three years in to this journey and rely on activity as a distraction and I walk when I am restless which I find helps. Do post another walk sometime soon

I’m not that young I’m afraid. 63! But I married my best friends sister and I went to school with him from the age of 5. I knew my wife for nearly 50 years and was married 38. My anniversary was on Saturday. It’s will always be tough but all we can do is try and do the best we can isn’t it.

I have a few posts already done elsewhere so will drag them over to here, I hope they can offer some peace by way of distraction.

I would be happy to read them. It is my husband’s birthday today he would have been 90 so you are very young to be a widower. I hope you can find some comfort and companionship as it is a long time to be alone.

Thank you, but that is a tricky thing to think of just yet.

Dear @Mikeh
I really enjoyed your walk, you have good way with telling a story. I wish I had the energy to walk too but I have become quite withdrawn and mostly only leave the house when I have to. My husband passed away last year June he tried so hard to stay with me, he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer and managed to fight it for nearly 3 years. Bless him, then covid stopped the trials etc. We were married for 38 years. Like you it has devastated me. I’m so sorry for loss and wish you health to carry on walking! Margarita

Being a widower I can echoed most things you said. I spend 32 years with my wife. It’s a bubble we were reluctant to leave: just the 2 of us being together was enough we wouldn’t ask for anything else. We didn’t need them. But the bubble has bursted. This new life was suddenly forced into me.
I walked too. Not to keep fit as long life means nothing to me now. It feels a little better on the road but bits of memory of us together still pop up, you feel a moment of sweetness then intense heartache follows. I never know loneliness is this hard. I am 49; I always thought sooner or later we have to go alone but it’s too soon. We had planned to retire early next year in another country. We had everything ready. Now everything is gone in the wind.

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Your story sounds like mine! We were about to retire to enjoy life and my husband was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away last July 24th. I feel like I have become an outsider looking other people living their lives. We were enough for each other and now there is just a deep dark hole in my soul.

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yes spot on: like an outsider watching others enjoying their lives and family time. Joy and happiness have nothing to do with me anymore.

A LAZY PROMANADE – Not so much a walk but an observation.

A little after 7.30am and my radio softly wakens me into another Sunday morning. Sunday’s used to be enjoyable, the usual nudging and silent protesting from each other until one of us gave in and went to make the tea, to return and slurp whilst listening to Love songs on Radio 2. We snuggle into each other and let our minds reminisce on our love songs, which were many, and marvel on the celebrations of the Golden, Diamond weddings and newlyweds eager to tell the world that they are in love and just married. How those little things that were taken for granted are missed so much now they have been taken away for good.

The song that was playing was “I still have faith in you” one of the two new ABBA songs that had just been released. The words seemed so fitting, as though my wife was singing from her place in heaven to me to get on with life, she is with me and always will, and at the same time I could sing it back with equal meaning. It inspired me to get on with a little more spring in my step whilst shedding a tear.

Being of an age that enjoyed ABBA and to be honest still do, as I sat in the end of my lonely bed starring in the full length mirror on the wardrobe scratching what blokes scratch and I thought “ABBA, they will be timeless for ever” unlike the ever greying beard on my face! Oh well, better scrub the shaver round my chops and get a wriggle on.

I opened up the curtains and Bam! The sun poured into the room, driving out the dark in more ways that just light. “That’s brilliant” I thought, for today I had arranged to my oldest and dearest friend, the reason for the beautiful life I had. He was the best friend whose sister I fell in love with and married. We had arranged to meet at Maldon, a sleepy town hugging to the sides of the Blackwater estuary in Essex. I haven’t been there before so it was one of those few places that my wife hadn’t been to.

As the weather was good, we had arranged to meet on the promenade; his chariot of choice was a lovingly restored triumph spitfire and was going on my motorbike. The phone rang to confirm arrangements and times and ensure that the picnic was organised. I hadn’t seen them for a while and we all are sharing the loss, for me, my wife, for him his big Sister, but it would be good to see each other and promenade along the estuary.

I clad my body with half a cow hide, fashioned and engineered into snazzy leathers and jumped into the saddle of my steed. Off I went to get fuel, but, oh, I have no indicators! Dam! After fuelling I returned home for a quick tinker, but the solution didn’t present itself willingly, wearing a cow hide in the sun isn’t cooling, in fact I could feel my boots filling up with sweat as the sun stewed me and my attempts to fix the bike.

That’s it! Plan B, get back in the car, a quick phone call to re-adjust plans and a dash back in doors hastily stripping off clothes as I walked. To the observer, it must have looked like some steamy passionate activity was afoot. Clothes strewn all over the place, including the stairs, I was hot! Anyway in the car and off I was.

I arrived at Maldon’s Promenade Park, a large car park with loads of kiosks serving food and drink, loo’s and allsorts to entertain the family. This was my first time and on first look it seemed a nice place. I met up with my bestie and his partner, warm greetings were exchanged and silent thoughts of our mutual loss were exchanged and acknowledged.

We walked to a food kiosk at bought burger and chips tea and soft drinks, sat for a while and watched the boats on the estuary. Children ran about with buckets and nets eager with anticipation, attentive parents trying to calm their enthusiasm no doubt foreseeing the impending disappointment for not catching anything, only to have their recent purchases thrown to one side in a temper tantrum which of course will be soon forgotten once an ice-cream had been swapped the bucket and net.

To my left, the quayside, with Thames barges moored, reminders of the trades that were plaid in former times but now repurposed into floating tourist attractions. Still beautiful in design and equally fit for purpose, sales aloft and blown taught by the gentle estuarial breeze. Happy voices and from younger folk whilst grandparents and older folk just sat enjoying the peace and serenity of sail in motion, no doubt, thinking of the life that was experienced by the seafarers who saw these mighty flat bottomed vessels as just a means to earn money and drink most of it away in the numerous shore side ale houses.

To my right, the estuary flows to the arms of the sea, the sea wall stretching out like a hand pointing seaward. On the end, a verdigris coloured monument of Byrhtnoth the Earldorman of Essex stands defiantly with sword raised high warding off the Viking invaders at the battle of Maldon. Nowadays he is just a backdrop for an endless stream of selfie takers that probably don’t even know what he was known for or the significance of his actions and sacrifice.

In front of my lies mud! Not any old mud but the mud famed for the Maldon Mud Race. An annual 500yd ish race across this mud in aid of charity, originally a challenge from a local pub back in the 70’s. Hmmm I think I would give that ago for my wife’s charity, why not it’s just mud isn’t it, stinky sticky salty mud, what could possible go wrong hey!

A salt marsh meadow lies beyond with the occasional remains of timber framed vessels abandoned to nature, clinker boarding long gone, exposing its carcass rib cage to the gods above like open arms seeking salvation. Yonder match stalk men and women walk an embankment no doubt taking in the seas vapours on wind, whilst working off the Sunday dinner, it’s like I’m seeing a Lowry in motion.

I look back at my family taking the moments in and for one small moment we all seemed to be at peace, perhaps the sun on our faces, the wind in our hair and the melodic slurping’s of the ebbing tide was some divine intervention cuddling our emotions from a world that we know not of, who knows, if it was then thank you my sweetheart for once more filling our lives with love.

We got up from our vantage place and walked to the quayside on our left. I slowed behind my relatives to take pictures and noticed them hand in hand. Oh how I miss that, but at the same time, I smiled and blessed them in my thoughts, I have lost that, but they still have it and I enjoyed seeing that. A couple walked towards me, they were motorcyclists, clad in leather as I was a few hours ago, again hand in hand. I remembered all the fun my wife and I had on motorbikes; we courted on them and rode them all our lives until a couple of years ago. My wife’s knees couldn’t cope with the riding position for anything but short distances, shame really, she was a perfect pillion, knowing exactly how to roll with the bike only hanging on to me when I accelerated but lovingly at times with arms around me, giving me a gentle squeeze as she rested her head on my back. A little gesture that said I love you in so many ways.

I nodded to them as they passed, a code that motorcyclist do when the pass on the road, to acknowledge our mutual love of bikes. I carried on walking and snapping pictures absorbing the surroundings and suddenly chanced upon a lovely lady weaving bracelets. I stopped and looked her craftsmanship. They were woven by hand; I could see her just calmly weaving them effortlessly but beautifully. I paused and spied a purple one. My wife’s favourite colour, I wear quite a few on my arm, all given to me by those I love as a symbol of unconditional friendship. I never put them on myself, always the person giving must place and tie the knot, and they will stay there until the break.

The lady approached me and said can I help, I said can I have a purple one please. She asked for my hand and held it in hers. Don’t ask me what happened, but I felt energy; she studied my hand for size so that she could select an appropriate size. After a few attempts the right size was found and she placed it on my arm. It felt like a friendship was being formed of sorts and the tradition of not putting them on my own wrist was maintained. I paid and thanked her and walked to catch up my relatives.

As I walked the quayside, I could see the barges close up; they are surprisingly big, sturdy, and wide in beam, built to survive the cruelness of the sea. They were moored now for the tide was retreating exposing the muddy underground of the estuary bed. Some barges were converted into tea rooms; one was for sale and others for pleasure cruises. Little caravans converted into book stalls adorned the quayside as did restaurants, and fisherman’s cottages, pubs and gardens filled with beautiful flowers. Your eyes were filled with choice as you meandered along the quayside.

We came to the end and stopped to look at our journey so far, different vistas filled our sight. The light and differing viewpoints exposed other things, so as to give you a fuller appreciation of your surroundings. We started to walk back walking towards the sea. I stopped to ask the bracelet lady if I could take a picture for my stories, she kindly obliged, picture was taken and I explained the significance of the bracelet its serendipitous discovery and my reasons for writing. We exchanged Facebook invitations and then thanked her and gave my blessings to her for her kindness.

We carried on walking stopping briefly at the car for a much welcomed cuppa and a homemade chocolate muffin laced with indulgent choc chips suspended in a moist rich chocolate sponge, decadence in a pleated case. It was like eating strawberries and cream with champagne on a sun warmed waterside meadow with friends just enjoying each other’s company in the silence of nature’s surroundings.

After our tea break we returned back to the sea wall walk, passing a sea water filled boating lake. An elderly gentleman sitting in the dappled shade of a willow, controlled a model sail boat, tacking fore and after across it’s scaled down ocean. The children with nets and buckets were catching crabs with surprising success much to the delight of the attending parent, gentle shrills of excitement were heard and occasional disappointment as the crab loosened its grip on the piece of bacon, preferring its chances in the pool to that of a see through bucket emblazoned with a picture of a giant colourful crab staring back at it from the outside.

I gazed forward on my slow walk to the statue at the end, selfie takers trying to be patient waiting in turn to take the pose. We reached the end, the estuary stretched ahead but this was as far as we could walk.

Pictures taken we returned back to along the sea wall to our cars. We stopped to stare and sit for a while and contrasted the eagerness of the passing masses to that of the tide ebbing away, repeating its journey day after day at a constant pace with no regard to us on the shore. I thought to myself, we come and go and the tide sees us all. It observes children growing into couples into families pushing children that eventually push their parents about until they are here no more, then they will sit on this wall and reflect like I am on the cycle of life. But the tide and time marches on as a constant and just slowly lets us repeat the process.

I look again at my family sitting on the wall with me and despite my grief, my sadness, my heartbreak and loneliness, I am a lucky man to have had so much in my life, been loved to extreme and loved in return, I am truly blessed and I am here, I gazed into the blue sky above and welcomed the warmth on my face from afar and reflected in words from the song from ABBA that awoke me this morning, “Do I have it in me” well yes my sweetheart, “I still have faith in you”.

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Hi Margarita1
Thank you for your kindness, I still feel that my house is my safe place but it was turning into a prison as well. I feel guilty even going about my business, but I keep telling myself that she wouldn’t want me to hide away. Hopefully in time you feel like venturing out a little more. It took me nearly a year to do that. We share the same sense of loss , emptiness and sadness. I wish I could just tell you how to move through this, so in the meantime all I can say is I understand and sorry that you have lost your husband. Mike

Hi Mikeh
Thank you for answering me back, once the world has settled down, I hope to do some travelling. First to Spain, to take my husband’s ashes to his village, Campo de Criptana, Don Quixote land, windmills etc, so he can rest with his family. Then hopefully the Canary Islands where my family lives. You are quite a writer, have you written a book? If not you should, the above story was very entertaining and I really enjoyed reading it. Take care and I wish you all the best. Margarita

That’s serious travelling Margarita. I have several books on the go, 4 in fact they cover our love story, losing her and the future plus one called walking through grief, which has many stories in. I will publish them eventually but they are a work in progress. I will post some more stories soon. I’m feeling sleepy, so while insomnia is at a weekend state, I’m going to bed. Good night and take care.

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Once again your walking story distracted and calmed me… You really do go on the journey with you…

Good morning Mike. I’ve just finished reading your latest whilst drinking my cup of tea in bed. Alas, a cup of tea my darling man would make for me each and every morning which I have to make for myself now. Thank you for the entertainment. Oh I hadn’t heard the ABBA song you mentioned so I’ve just listened to it on YouTube. Very apt - I’m going to post it on the Song thread. x

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Good Morning Kate

Tea in bed was an everyday thing we took for granted and now just one of many things I long for.

The one cup one bowl one plate I now live is a constant reminder. I have sort of accepted it now.

It started off with my wife making tea. That’s when she collapsed.

So many simple things turn into hardships don’t they.

The other ABBA song is “ Don’t shut me down” which is apt as well as is Ed Sheeran’s “visiting Hours” all released this month which is the month we got married and she passed. Coincidence or fate who knows but I take comfort from the words and the timing.

Take good care Kate

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Undulating farmland, rivers, lanes, tracks and a lovely golf course.

So I was a little unsure what to do today. I had done the remainder of the housework but it was raining. Shall I chance it said to myself, let’s have a cuppa and see what the weather does. So as I sit in my little conservatory supping my tea the suns pokes it head out and I feel its warmth through the window. Well that’s sorted; on with the boots, thin out my rucksack grab a drink and something to eat and off we jolly well go.

No sooner had a stepped out the door its starts to rain again. Well I’m out now, so plod on. I had my charity hoody on and it wasn’t raining more a drizzle so off I went. I wasn’t sure where I was going but I took my Satmap navigator with me just in case. As I wombled off and fired up the Satmap and logged my start point, if I get lost I can at least plot a route home. I tramp across the field to join a farm track that will take to the golf course. The rain stops the sun comes out and all is good, so I reach in my pocket for an extra treat I squirreled away, a bag of Revels! Well if the so called “family bag” gets any smaller they will have to drop the “S” in revels and call it a bag of revel. What made me laugh with contempt is said on the reverse of the bag “share and enjoy with family and friends” well I looked at the bag and its contents and thought it would have to be a small family or just one friend given my first helping halved the contents. Share Ha! The only thing this bag is being shared with is my rucksack when empty.

Anyway by the time I’d scoffed all the Revels and hidden the evidence I had reached the Golf course. It was a pleasant view over the course with only a few golfers evident. I crossed between the greens and descended to Pope Mill, walked round the edge of the gardens and crossed the bridge over the Stour and proceeded along the avenue of poplar trees. After a few minutes I dropped down by the side of the elderly brick bridge and its supports turning left onto the railway track and walked towards Sturmer.

At the play park, at the end, I crossed the road and turned right up the bridal path to the rear of the old station. Walking round the field until I reached the infamous “five ways” finger board. I looked at it and in the direction of each pointer and could only see three directions. I suspect the two have been lost to overzealous planting by the farmer. It didn’t affect me as I was going to try another path. I looked at the high foliage, in particular the stinging nettles, and marvelled at the perfect selection of walking apparel. Shorts were definitely the wrong choice as both legs were now objecting to the stinging sensations and still are to be honest. There was an abundance of grass hoppers and bees, which is a good thing to see.

The path split at the corner of the field, left was the village of Keddington and straight ahead was the Stour valley path and a bridge that I had spied from afar on a previous roam. I went over the bridge that spans the river Stour, but paused to take in the silent serenity. The river was slow and at peace with its surroundings, no weirs or manmade structures to prevent its slumbering passage, flowing gently past as it has done for so many many years. Dragonflies performed a dance in mid-stream whilst the surrounding reeds swayed gently in the light breeze. I carried on in the direction of a farm then turned left up a hill that suddenly erupted in front of me. A place called Baythorne End was to my right in a mile or so, but my journey was upwards and over distant fields.

The farmer had obviously been bothered by lost walkers and had erected a number of warning and footpath signs. They stopped short of “trespassers will be shot and survivors will be shot again” type warnings but did give the impression that you were not welcome. I scuppered up the path at a pace that would out run any buck shot from the farmer’s shotgun and was stopped in my tracks by another sign saying conservation area, bugger off, or words to that effect. I consulted my navigator which showed the path the other side of a hedge. I backtracked and found an overgrown path that hadn’t been trod through in some time, and given I couldn’t go back or forward, the only way was to once again battle the stinging nettles in shorts. Once through I was confronted with another sign saying, well you know by now, it certainly wasn’t helpful as there wasn’t any other path but for a slight indentation in a freshly ploughed field. According to the navigator, it was straight across the field. I took out my binoculars at this point and surveyed a possible exit. I could see another finger board directly opposite me, so the only choice was to walk across the ploughed field. I stood there and readied myself for the dash across. It felt like I had just emerged from a secret tunnel and was about to try and out run the guards to a hole in a hedge were a clandestine meeting would take place with a member of the resistance. So clutching my false papers, well a breakfast bar, I made a dash half expecting the jolly farmer and his poised 12 bore to pick me off in no man’s land.

I made it safely across the field unscathed and passed through the hedge to be confronted with another field, this time the path was clear so I followed it to the road beyond.

Up until this point I had been walking away from my finish point, but the road signified a couple of miles of road walking which eventually would curve me round towards the start point. The road was a sleepy back road dotted with pretty but extensive properties. I was walking due west, the setting sun was telling me that, through the hamlets of Boyton. At one point a gentleman and his dogs walked towards me and greeted my with an enthusiastic “good evening”, I replied “good afternoon” being slightly puzzled by what he said, then glancing at my watch, I realised it was gone 6:30, so yes it was more evening than afternoon. The road steeply rose to a junction which pointed me towards Keddington. The jubilant noises from a family having fun, followed by the splashes from a swimming pool were heard from behind a brick wall. I thought how lovely to have your family around, and for the first time thought about my destiny, oh well, I have had my happiness, I thought for a while and then smiled at their enjoyment and plodded on towards my next way point.

I was standing at the top of a field and looked at the landscape outstretching before me. I must be grateful for having this, but it’s not in the hills or coast and even if I was, I wouldn’t be able to walk up them as I promised my wife I wouldn’t do that alone. One day I will do that with a companion of sorts, but not yet.

I walked down the hill to a cross road where a lovely lady emerged. I held back affording her the choice of crossing, she said “I’m going up there” and pointed in the direction is was going. I said “so am I”. I held back so that she could walk in comfort but instead she stopped and waited for me and chose to walk with me. We had a little chat about this and that and after about a mile she said that’s as far as she was going. I wished her well and thanked her for taking the time to accompany me, she about turned and I pushed on.

After a short while I came to the path on the left that lead me to a big playing field, but before I could get there I had to cross a sluice with a noisy boisterous river rushing under it was like a crowd of chanting football revellers. A far comparison from the peace of the other bridge, this reminded me about older age, the bustling sluiced river was the exuberance of youth whilst the meandering slow and steady paced river upstream was more akin to a more sedentary but purposed life.

The playing field is where the “Keddington meadow lark” is held, just down the road from the Barnardiston Arms pub. This pub stands as a trawler would, with its net on the only road that goes to the meadow, on days of village festivities, the net must pick a handsome haul of patrons en-route to the meadow.

Anyway, my route was to exit the meadow and turn left down a small road to a path opposite a pretty thatched cottage. On the roof of the cottage, the thatcher had modelled a squirrel out of reed and put on the end. Behind that was a cat waiting to pounce on the squirrel and behind that was a dog chasing the cat. Natures food chain encapsulated in reed for the purpose of raising a smile from all those that looked.

I walked up the path and spied a huddle of bees gathering late evening nectar before clocking off for the night. A bit like the boys stopping off at the local for a quick pint after a busy day at work. I crossed the road at the end of the path and crossed to another path that ascended between two fields to another path. After crossing a bridge and circumventing a few fields, that have been newly waymarked, I reached the track that I scoffed the Revels on at the start.

A journey of just over 8 miles over undulating farmland, rivers, road, tracks and a lovely golf course on a lazy warm weekend evening.

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Hi Elen,

Sorry for the late reply, just takes me time sometimes to get back on the horse!

Yes it does sound like we had similar paths, I married my childhood sweetheart and all we ever needed we found in each other. our plans of a happy retirement exploring this land, seeing our children marry, grand children and so many other things are now just scraps of paper on the floor.

I still want to travel this land in her memory and write about her in my stories, but its just not the same on your own, so I don’t bother, and she would have hated that. I keep trying things out in the hope I will stumble upon a way to get by, but alas, not yet.

writing helps me and distracts me and in time, I will write about stuff with fondness. I have just posted another story about what I’m like behind the mask, as still have grief in my head and heart, but again I hope it helps others understand that we all feel the same and I will feel less alone.

Take care X

Hi Kathryn,

sorry for the late reply. I’m glad that this provides a little distraction and just for a moment soothes you.

I write to keep our journey alive and try and thread my wife into the story. I have also posted an article about my life behind the mask, again I hope it makes people feel that they are not alone and in return I won’t feel so lonely either.

take care x

Mike, I have so enjoyed your writing & yes it’s a distraction but a good one. Please continue to post as it is good to know that others understand the feelings of reinventing your existence as one and not two. I too constantly remind myself how lucky I was to have had that love since I was15 years old. Grief is the price we pay. Take Care Carol B.

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