Kingfisher

talk to me - book installation comfort me (small) (2)

The prom was busy yesterday afternoon, so we walked by the river. I thought he would say no, he had before. I don’t like the rocks, he’d said. This time he acquiesced. Ok, he said, why not? There were a few people around, mostly walking their dogs. The dogs wagged about, drinking from puddles, dragging sticks, barking and generally being happy to be there, to be alive. They don’t hold back, they are not reticent about expressing joy. It beams out of them. They live now, here and now. The river flowed fast. The noise of its rushing was gorgeous. A gorgeous kind of vital bubbling. It is the sound of pulsing life, of cold freshness, of constant change. We walked on grass, delighted by its cushiony-ness. Might we see a kingfisher? I asked. No, he said. No, probably not. The habitat is too open. Do remember the kingfisher in Cambridge, along the backs, by the stream there? I do. That shock of electric blue. Stunning. I was stunned, questioning the truth of what I saw. It caught my breath. It stopped my breath, making me feel part of something other than this fog inside my head. It pulled me out of myself into a bigger, far more vibrant existence.

He knew you, said a woman, dressed in a Morrisons’s bakery uniform. I watched him turn to face her, perplexed. Sam, she said, he knew you on Saturday. His face became a smile. Yes, he said, he did didn’t he? He is gratified, I thought, pleased as punch that a little puppy knows him. We’d cottoned on who she was together. So often that is the case. A shared dawning. It was the woman with the Sam the puppy. I didn’t know she had blonde hair, when we see her walking Sam on the prom she is usually dressed in black, hat and all. Oh, look, said Mags from behind the till, he’s bought you a passion fruit. Aren’t I a lucky girl? I reply, smiling at her.

I walked my whole walk this morning. All of it, including the Perygyl. My legs are better, still stiff but better. I strode forth. It was good to feel the power of me again. So many people walk here. Up and down. Solitary walkers. The man with the too-big jeans and the brown face. The man who he calls the ‘richest man in Aberystwyth. And the man with the stick. He walks and walks. He isn’t well. His legs are like matchsticks and his hair flies out behind him. The smell of him is strong – a mix of sweat and anxiety. He doesn’t seek eye contact. He walks inside himself.

My eye catches the front covers of the women’s magazines in front of the till. My new philosophy, announces Clare Balding, is to do less and do it better. Or something like that. She looks happy. She got married recently, he says over breakfast. That’s nice. Her girlfriend is beautiful, I say. An actress, what’s her name? She’s an announcer, he says. I know, but she acts as well. I remember her in a radio adaptation of an Agatha Christie – Murder at the Vicarage, I believe. What is her name?

Do less. Sometimes that is what I want to do. Slow it all down. Stop all the fretting. Just stop and listen. Listen to that blackbird, the car that has just driven by, the sound of my fingertips on the keyboard. Do less, live better.

Alice Arnold, he says. Yes. Alice Arnold. Beautiful eyes. Blue, like the today’s sky. Happy Easter.