Last Saturday morning I decided to take a walk to Bradgate Park. I had intended to go on my bike but there was the merest hint of a breeze in the air and in my book, this makes for extremely difficult cycling conditions. As does too much cloud cover, a single drop of rain, overly-bright sunshine, and when the temperature outside is less than eighteen degrees and more than nineteen degrees. Yes, that’s me – the ultimate fair-weather cyclist.
Besides which, I hadn’t been to my secret picnic bench in ages and I thought it would be good to sit for a while and watch the world go by. So armed with a bagful of supplies and Olly Murs singing away in my ears (I thought you weren’t going to judge me – it’s for the kids), off I skipped in gleeful anticipation.
The walk passed without incident and as I continued past the reservoir where the wind whipped off the water and whistled around my face, I knew I’d made the right decision to leave the bike at home.
I say there was no incident but as I approached the park, things started to take a turn for the worse. I had an uneasy feeling before I’d even pushed open the tall, wooden gate to enter the park and as I began to walk up the hill to my vantage point, my worst fears were confirmed:
Someone was sitting at MY bench!!
Not just one person either – there were two of them! And they had bikes up there! And they had music blaring away! How disrespectful!
I can’t explain the immense disappointment I felt at not being able to sit at that bench. As Molly so matter-of-factly told me when I got home, “Well it is a public park Mum – what did you expect?” I know it’s not my own private property but sometimes when I sit up there and breathe in the park’s vastness, letting hundreds of years of history tug at my imagination, that park is mine, all mine, if only for a fleeting moment.
I sat at a second-choice bench for a while and sulked, blaming myself for neglecting my bench for so long, glaring at the cyclists from time to time and I vowed to get up at the crack of dawn next time to secure my spot and beg for forgiveness. The cyclists eventually packed up and left (I don’t think they actually saw me scowling) but the moment was gone. I couldn’t bring myself to sit at my picnic bench that day.
As I trudged home, even the nostalgic sounds of King (you probably won’t know this group if you’re younger than thirty-five but look them up, you’re in for a treat) couldn’t put a spring in my step.
But as I got nearer to home all this changed……
There’s a jogger in our village who I see quite regularly – he’s probably in his sixties, has unkempt grey hair and he wears a washed out, vintage Leicester City kit with trainers that look about fifty years old. When I say jog, it’s normally more of a half-walk, half-trot but fair play to him – he’s out and about getting some exercise.
As I walked, I could see him ahead of me and because he was walking quite slowly I soon caught him up. I knew I’d have to overtake him but the path was narrow so I had to venture out onto the road to get past. Just as I stepped onto the road though, he looked round at me, shouted ‘Hello, I didn’t see you there!’ and started jogging, leaving me standing in the road like a right prat.
He ran off in front and then slowed to a walk again. I caught him up for a second time, at which point I made another attempt to get past him. At which point he looked round at me and shot off again, leaving me for dust.
We played this game of cat and mouse twice more until I resigned myself to the fact that I was never going to get past the wily bugger and I crossed over to the other side of the road, whereby he gave me a cheery wave, shouted ‘Nice to see you again!’ and shuffled off up the road (walking at this point I might add).
I don’t know what made me smile more; the fact that he seemed to think he knew me or that I was unwittingly acting as some kind of rearward pacemaker for this guy. Whatever it was though, by the time I’d got home and told the family of my adventures, I felt a whole lot better.
So if you can’t sit at your favourite bench every once in a while, then I reckon that a vintage jogger running rings round you is the next best thing!