We had legitimate cause to travel quite a bit further than our usual weekly jaunt to the supermarket. We had our reasons ready, in case we were stopped by the police, but, although we saw several police cars driving around, nobody stopped us as we crossed the border into another county. I repeat, we had valid reasons for doing this, but that’s all I’m going to say on the subject for now. However, the following are my observations on a bit of a strange day, number one being: IT FELT FANTASTIC TO BE OUT. PROPERLY OUT. OUT, OUT, IN FACT. OUT, OUT, OUT!  That’ll do, Cooper. Settle down now. Deep breaths.

Number two: We passed several motorway signs which read: STAY HOME. ESSENTIAL TRAVEL ONLY. SAVE LIVES. On driving away from our house earlier on, we saw an astonishing number of people out and about: cycling, running, dog-walking and just walking.  There are lots of complaints on our local social media groups about people not distancing from each other and going about in groups, etc, and I’m afraid that’s what we have witnessed, as well.

Number three: It was lovely to see the May blossom in the hedges lining the roads and the fields of bright golden rapeseed in the distance. You do tend to miss the seasons when living away from the countryside; though admittedly, thanks to global warming, the seasons are all merging into one and we barely need to swap over our winter and summer duvets any more. (I used to know someone who had winter and summer curtains, which fascinated me.  She would have been running herself ragged, these days.)

Number four: There was a fair bit of traffic about, but nothing like the amount you would normally see where we were driving. Having said that, there was a much higher number of roadkill than usual. Perhaps those poor animals were getting a little blasé about things – much like the people in point number two.

Number five: A man waved at us as we passed under the bridge where he was standing. We waved back. I wondered if he stands there all day: making contact with total strangers from such a place being infinitely preferable to no contact at all.

Steve Wright played some beautifully wistful and poignant songs on his radio programme, including The Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset with the extremely pertinent line, sung by Ray Davies, about looking at the world through his window.

Also on the programme was a piece about which hobbies make you more attractive to others. Stand by!

Dancing around the living room – or, indeed, any room.  See my blog from the other day about me and dancing; though I’m not at all sure that anyone would find the way I dance particularly attractive. They’re probably far more likely to give me a very wide berth. Good! I always like to have plenty of space around me when I dance, and hate feeling hemmed in. Me and crowded, sweaty nightclubs have never got on.

Yoga. Yes, I know what’s going through your grubby little minds! It makes you more bendy.  True; it can do this if you are any good at it. However, if, like me, you faithfully attend weekly yoga classes for years and still can’t get your legs to stretch behind your ears, you’ll never be much use to anybody, so don’t even go there, OK?  I can’t help it if I was born short-limbed, can I?  The teacher said yoga is much harder for short-limbed people to do, so there. I got him to write me a note. On the other hand, he used to say that there is no competition in yoga, while getting his smug star pupil to show the rest of us how it’s done. She wasn’t popular.

Yoga is supposed to be calming and therapeutic. It’s supposed to leave you feeling chilled and relaxed and in another zone entirely.  Clearly, my heart just wasn’t in it enough, though I really did try, honest to God. I used to lie back during the supposedly relaxing meditation part at the end of our practice, listening to the gentle snoring (sometimes farting, as well) around me, pondering what I was going to eat once I got home, and mentally reciting my shopping and to-do lists for the following day.

In one class, the teacher was taking us on a meditative journey up a mountain, through beautiful scenery (“Who left that crisp packet there?”) with stunning, panoramic views. At the very top, we had to visualise a small hut, and were asked what we saw outside it.  I could very clearly see something – what was it? I moved closer. It was a note, pinned to the door, and it read: No milk today.  There was nothing very spiritual about what the poor, weary milkman said next, I can tell you. The teacher probably would have preferred me to think of something really uplifting like, I don’t know: Be yourself. Everyone else is taken. (Oscar Wilde said that, btw. Not me. I wish!)  Or: Live, laugh, love, eat, drink, pray. Take a chill pill. Have a nervous breakdown. (That was me, not Oscar.)

The second yoga teacher I tried (the first left the area altogether. It was nothing personal, I’m sure), tended to pick me out as an example to the rest of the class on how not to do the poses. I have to say that she was a prime example of how good yoga can be for you: slim, supple, no make-up, thick, long, tawny-coloured hair. I took her to be in her forties, though she kept mentioning her grandchildren. I just assumed she must have started very young; no doubt due to her extreme bendiness. In fact, she had recently celebrated her 60th birthday. Makes you sick, doesn’t it?  However, even this incentive couldn’t persuade me to continue with her classes, which were held in the local church hall. Then they knocked it down and built a block of flats there instead. It was a sign, I’m sure –  though not a very spiritual one.

Cooking. Bugger it. I’m not doing very well, so far, am I?! I hated cookery classes at school. I liked eating, but I didn’t enjoy the preparing-the-food bit you had to go through first.  I can remember bringing home some truly appalling concoctions, usually white fish in a sauce (because it was easy), slopping about in a big tin. Surely my family didn’t feel obliged to eat them? Thankfully, the (many) years since then have erased the finer details from my memory – theirs, too, I hope.

The only cooking I can remember actively enjoying was – surprise! – making the cake for Sunday tea. My limited repertoire consisted of just three recipes: Chocolate brownies, flapjacks and Victoria sandwich. Not all at once, obviously. I had to give my poor family a fighting chance to recover from one weekend to the next. My repertoire has expanded a little since then, though admittedly not that much (I’ve added banana cake), but chocolate brownies remain my favourite.

Football skills.  Not much I can say here, since I have never been able to abide football, or indeed anything even remotely sporty – maybe horsey-type stuff, but that’s about it. I find them all so boring. I used to know people who took the entire two weeks off work for Wimbledon, for goodness’ sake! At school, I hated all sports, but I quite liked running.  (They always caught me, though.) I am completely missing the sporting gene and have never been attracted to anyone sporty. Bet they’re relieved and delighted, too.

Photography.  I have always enjoyed taking photographs, starting off with my mother’s old Box Brownie, which I still have, and progressing on to the point-and-shoot-style compacts. That was as far as I went, though. I didn’t fancy lugging great big lenses and heavy camera equipment around with me. My handbag is bad enough, thanks. It would have been brilliant if phone cameras (and indeed the phones themselves) had been invented back then. They are just perfect for me, though I’m aware I’m never going to get the range or the pin-sharp results that “proper” cameras have. A friend who runs a camera shop in Sussex said he was pleased to see film cameras making a comeback after so many years of digital. I feel much the same way about “real” books versus Kindle.

Anyway.  You’ll have to excuse me now. After our epic journey, I’m with Ray Davies: going back to looking at the world from my window. Though I have to disagree with him over the not needing his friends bit. I’m needing mine more than ever…






Author: Hampton Caught

The rants and ramblings of an ex Deputy Fiction Editor of Woman's Weekly magazine.

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