I have written before of how my hairdresser asks me ‘What have you done this week‘? Fortunately she is on holiday so I haven’t yet mentioned coracling but would she have believed me anyway? I’m sure she thinks I make things up. I’d better not mention my trip to Everest. There was one incident however that I couldn’t tell accurately and have resorted to words to try and fix it for myself now.
It occurred after a hard days labour on the estate. The boss was off flailing cycle paths leaving Jayne, Paul and myself to assemble three large commemorative seats in selected spots in the Gloucesters. We also had Simon’s two dogs, Missy and Cory, to look after. The seats were constructed in the style of the Jubilee seat Simon made in 2012. Large slabs of oak hewn from fallen trees, chain sawed actually but hewn sounds better. Using the chain saw, Paul fashioned the oak into rough planks for the seat and back. We had previously split some smaller logs for the arm rests and lower cross pieces. All these elements were then hauled through the woods to the selected sites. Already in place were the upright posts, also oak but of larger section and thumped into the ground by the tractor borne post thumper to form the legs. The seat design is cleverly composed to meld together the requisites of modern day living; Health and Safety, Ecological considerations, wildlife compatibility, cost, and using only the foresters tools and materials.
Each site was selected to provide the rambler with a moment of respite and a view that inspires them to appreciate the beauty and tranquillity of their surroundings. The day was one of those cloudless hot ones that we had enjoyed for some weeks. Toiling under an airless canopy of deciduous trees, our efforts were rewarded with the usual beads of perspiration that accompany hard labour. Even the dogs, panting heavily, sought the shade under the Landrover. By the evening Simon had finished his flailing; an equally warm and dusty task, and joined us we were all tired but also satisfied with our labours.
‘Let’s go and watch Albert work’, he suggested so we piled into the Landrover to head back through the woods for home. Albert was taking advantage of the weather and ‘harvesting’ barley in an adjacent field. The Landrover emerged on the edge of the woods at the site of the original Jubilee seat and Simon pulled up. We all fell out of the vehicle and scrambled for best position on the large ceremonial throne that has an iconic view over the steeply rolling hills that form the bulk of the estate. ‘Wow’, I thought, as we sprawled over the seat, with dogs rushing around scenting before they too settled and all took in the view.
The hillside field that dipped away from us already showed evidence of Albert’s previous passes with the Combiner. The outer portion of the field of barley had been reduced to lines of chopped straw. The remaining barley stood awaiting its fate swaying in the gentle evening breeze. We couldn’t see Albert but we could hear his machine and see the plume of dust it made as he mowed through swathes of the golden crop. The dust rose high in the air as he passed before settling slowly back to earth and provided the visual clue as to his location. Not only his but also in the distance at least one other Combiner making progress on a similarly golden clad hillside. The early evening sunshine pierced the tree canopy covering us with dappled light. The light breeze that brought us refreshing air carried the dust way and imbued the sun with a haze resembling a photographic effect. The view was morphing into a lino-cut of traditional bucolic England.
As our bodies relaxed, our eyes began to take in more of the environment we noticed the dragonflies. Hundreds you would say, and although their erratic flight made them difficult to count we could estimate at least fifty. Large ones at that seemingly took delight in ‘buzzing’ us as they became used to our presence. That was the moment when four humans, yes Simon is human, and two dogs relaxed after their daily toil, in the close proximity enforced by the seat.
Six individuals all known for their noisy conversation sat, not saying a word, just looking. Looking through the swarm of dragonflies, covered by the dappled sunlight of the tree shade, assailed by the laboured sound and dust of the unseen combiner as it toiled uphill towards us. We looked out onto the estate and the hills beyond. We sat fatigued and looked. Though we sensed dragonflies, dust, noise, wind and sun, time itself seemed to stand still.
And then Simon said ‘Right let’s go’ and the spell broke. We poured our selves back into the Landrover and headed home. It was probably only seconds but for me the memory of those precious seconds will last for years.