Sometimes it’s worth just stopping for a while to take a really good look around you.
I haven’t been getting out and about as much lately, since some lowlife stole my bike (that’s my excuse, anyway) but I did finally succumb to the lure of the great out-doors a few Sundays ago. Forecast to be the hottest day of the year so far, no Wimbledon on the telly and the Glasto coverage doesn’t kick in till later – so no excuses not to partake of the traditional English sunny Sunday afternoon pursuits; wondering more or less aimlessly over the countryside, clad in un-suitable clothing, perspiring freely.
A nice walk in that little woodland I found on my last cycle, that’ll be lovely. It’s a bit off the beaten track so I might be able to avoid being licked to death by the over-friendly labradors that customarily swarm in the woods, dragging their families behind them, at the first sign of anything like a warm afternoon.
That was the plan, at any rate.
Might even have worked, but for the great wave of ennervation that swept over me upon getting into the portable oven formerly (and formally) known as my car. To discover that the big, fold-out map is not in the door pocket with all the rest of them. It must be in the flat somewhere. It’s only on the third floor, around the corner from our (much prized) private parking area, but somehow I can’t summon up the energy. It’s so hot in here that the risk of melting seems alarmingly real, and the only way to get some air moving is to drive…it proves suprisingly difficult to steer using only the very tips of the fingers (the steering wheel being far too hot for my normal manly grasp). Thank heavens for power steering, the only reason I didn’t plow into the wall on my way out into the wide blue yonder.
All of which is by way of an explanatory pre-amble as to why I found myself trundling along a minor road somewhere between here and there, vaguely aware that I was probably heading in the wrong direction but not really minding…enjoying the breezes blowing through both open windows, when I went round a corner and came across this:
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A park bench in the middle of no-where. A typically English bit of mildly amusing eccentricity, I thought. Not being in anything resembling a hurry, I stopped, and went to have a look. There was a discrete brass plate attached to the bench. I can’t remember the exact wording inscribed thereon (typically, this turned out to be the only subject that defeated my camera’s auto-focus all day) but it turned out to be in memory of someone called Archer. Somewhat abashed, having a bit of a sit seemed like the least I could do to atone for my earlier levity.
Perhaps I could begin to understand why this particular spot, at first sight so ordinary, had been selected. So I sat down and looked around. Nothing special – nice hedge on the other side of the road, but not one I’d go out of my way to view. Pleasant enough little road, but no particularly striking vistas to be seen, no matter which way one looks.
It did occur to me that perhaps the unfortunate Archer had met their end here, mown down by some uncaring motorist hurtling round the corner. Entirely possible, but surely memorialising the place with something that encourages the casual visitor to linger and look is down-right peculiar, if not morbid?
Warming to my theme, I spent a happy few minutes fabricating increasingly implausible scenarios – this was the place where he always stopped for a breather on his way back from the pub; this was the very spot where the meteorite crashed out of the sky and flattened Archer; one night, on this very corner, Archer just simply dissapeared, all they found was his hat and the broken-off stem of his favourite pipe…
It was that sort of place, and day.
A car or two went by. I let them, quite happy just to be sat sitting. Enjoying the gentle breeze and the melodious tweetling of the birds. Idly noticing those small visual details that distinguished this from any other place. A thick strand of spiders web blowing like a banner from the top of the waste-bin. A couple of yellow vetches, lone bright spots in an otherwise green carpet. The rather pleasing way the path into the field behind me curved up over the brow of a low rise.
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After a while, I noticed I was happy. At peace with myself and everything around me. I felt better than I had when I sat down. That’s more than enough, I feel, and it actually doesn’t matter where, or why, or even who.
Archer’s Bench had, I came to realise, served it’s purpose admirably, and I’m deeply grateful to them…or him, or her, whoever they were
Take yourself there – some media experiments you might like to sample here