The rain was relentless.
I’d borrowed his coat. I felt like a child, tiny under all that weight. It was warm though, and it kept out the wet. The wind was too strong for an umbrella, though I’d brought it anyway. It was his umbrella, a long, golfing one from out of the car. It’s just about endurance, walks like that. One is buffeted, pummelled. Relentless. I think about explorers, Scott, Fiennes, trudging through impossible icy terrain. Head down, just getting one with it. It isn’t personal, it’s just weather. It isn’t designed to piss us off, or hinder our progress, it just is. That’s all. Don’t go, he said the night before, stay. Come back to bed with me, he says. But I want to be out, out in the air, so accepting it as it is is the only way. There is a calmness in that.
Few people were out. A couple without coats walking along South Prom. Then on my way back, a man ahead of me, swaying along Mill Street. Lurching and then kicking and punching at doors. Along the street, just bashing them, his legs flailing about wildly. I hung back, weighing up my options. I crossed the street, walked slower. He seemed to have gone. A police car, Heddlu, drove past. I started to breathe again, taking it slow. Two lovers ahead, their heads touching. Up the hill, striding now. Then home. You been away? asked our neighbour from his window, his fag nearly finished. No, I said, last week, yes. Oh, I covered for that, didn’t I? he said. No, it’s just I saw they’d left a parcel at your door.
I have a slither of fear, like ice in my belly. I want to write it. I have asked to write it. But there is always this fear of the nothingness. The starting from nothing. There is no escape. Just take yourself to the page, she says. And just write. I will. I will.
He tells me of her father. She talks as she does his feet. His podiatrist, mine too. It helps her to talk, to make funny stories from the heartbreaking tragedy of it. Her father and his Alzheimer’s. He’s in a home now. His wife, her mother, has been a saint. She usually goes in every day but has stayed away due to a cold. I thought you’d finished with me, he said, when she turned up the other day. My father was such a gentleman, she told him, never swore, never any sign of temper or violence. When she went to see him in the home recently, he shouted at her. Your grandfather’s upstairs so pull your fucking finger out.
It’s that dog again. I hear it before I see it. NO! I shout, my hands out ready to fend her off. I turn full circle keeping my eyes on her as she skids into some wet leaves, crouched down ready to pounce. What does she make of me, all that shouting? I get so edgy. I don’t want it. I don’t want her jumping up at me. The owner walks over, avoiding eye contact. Two neighbours, with whom he’s been chatting, are standing by the steps. She only wants to play, the woman says, smiling. What a fusspot. I can’t help it. Such feral-ness is beyond my comfort zone. He’s trying to train her, he says later. I saw him outside the other day. He’s doing his best. Yes. I should try harder. Relax a little. She’s only a pup.
She was out with the dog when I called. Bonnie, a sheepdog is nearly fifteen. She sounded better. It’s started to rain, she said, and I’ve put the washing out. Still better out than in. She walks in wellies, she tells me. Wellies that make her infected ingrown toenail sore. She sounds better, more alive. I like to hear that she is walking. Bonnie likes to be out, she says. Bonnie has adopted her. It’s been over two years now. She came over from the farm and stayed. She has a bed and a blanket in the passageway. How can I say? she says. It’s her little quirk. How can I say? With a mother tongue of Welsh, English words sometimes take a little time to come. I like to speak to her. There is a calm in it. I like her. I am warmed by her. Thank you for calling, she says. It is kind. A good woman, a gentle woman. Modest. She has much to teach me.