I am moseying along the river bank, heading towards the old wooden bridge. In the far pasture over on the other side, a batch of newly turned-out cattle is cavorting and bucking in celebration of its liberation. Also on the far side, well ahead of and oblivious to the cattle, is a family; a two + two of seemingly stranded townies who are staring with incredulity at the stile over which they must climb in order to cross the bridge. Each of them is carrying rather more bulk than is strictly necessary, and they clearly see the narrow step up and over as a ridiculous indulgence put there by the locals for no other reason than to inconvenience visitors.
They turn their attention to the metal gate, a makeshift affair bent to fit the wider entrance and there to give access for the odd cyclist or baby buggy. Lugging it aside far enough to allow them through, which is a substantial distance, the group is meandering onto the bridge, leaving the gate open. I call across.
‘Would you close that please?’
‘What?’ The man gathers the beginnings of a hostile expression onto his face, and it seems to suit him.
‘The gate, would you close the gate please. You just opened it.’
‘What for?’ The four of them draw together in a belligerent tableau.
‘It’s there to stop large, mindless beasts from getting onto the bridge, which is quite old and a bit delicate.’ I wave at the rumbustious cattle and then at the pock-holed planks and struts upon which they are standing. I look up and smile, ‘Too late though, I see.’
I step up my pace and skip over the stile onto the track back into the village wondering how long it will take them:
‘Oi! What the … ?’
Ok – not bad.
From Not Being First Fish by P Spencer-Beck. Available from Amazon (non-illustrated edition). Second edition (illustrated) due 2018.