Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

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Walking The Dog 3

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Walking The Dog 3

 

The fields have been ploughed and scattered this week.   My memory tells me that the ploughing should take place in the depths of winter so that the frosts can break up the great clumps of soil but that’s not the way it’s done in Emsworth.

 

Instead the local farmer brings in contractors who arrive in huge leviathan beasts, each worth a brace of Aston Martins, that devour the stubble fields and transform them into finely graded seedbed.

 

Think of the effort of lifting one spade of compacted soil.  The plough carves down three spades deep and four spades wide with each of six blades.  The earth surrenders to its mighty force and is exposed rich red and raw.  Then a massive grader, its huge weight hauled at speed across the fields smashes the soil into powder.  Only then does the farmer drive out his John Deere, looking puny by comparison and sets it to seeding and raking.  In the space of three or four days the work is completed.

 

The new scenery brings out a burst of fresh exuberance from Capone.  He gallops across the fields, his energy enough to lift any mood.  His sheer joy at being perfectly expresses the purpose of a dog.  He and the intimate experience of a walk with my best friend is the most powerful of therapies requiring no theory or structure, just the doing of it.  Perhaps more like a meditation or prayer.

 

With age the individual senses diminish in power but I find that there is a greater discernment between them.  I hear birdsong now like I never used to.  The pleasure of the birds, the sea, the sky, the light and the breeze is all so much more intense and the unreserved, joyous companionship of my dog makes it all the more so.

 

The most extraordinary things happen every day to those of us that indulge in this most universal hobby of walking the dog.  Last week, and I kid you not, from behind an isolated cottage, flew a second world war US fighter plane at no more than 200 feet.   Breaking every civil aviation rule in the book, it sent Capone and me diving for the nearest slit trench convinced that we were its target.

 

Regularly the Chinooks fly over Chichester harbour, their massive thumping beat pulverising the air.  If you happen to be wading through a large area of eight foot tall bullrushes it is so easy to imagine the rattle of M16s and the threat of napalm descending from above.

 

 

 

 

But the real dangers that lurk here are of a more rural nature.  The most marmalade orange, malevolent cat saunters along the church wall, a half dead rat clamped in its teeth.  The nasty fat corgi, its belly dragging on the ground and while Capone ambles by it leaps up and bites him on the back of the neck!

 

Spring is accelerating towards summer now.  The grasses and nettles in the hedgerows are lush.  The trees are turning a deeper green and filling out their magnificent silhouettes but the earliest crop in Emsworth is the forest of masts that’s sprouting everywhere you look.

 

 

Peter Reynolds 14-05-08

Walking The Dog 1

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When I first saw it, my heart went into my mouth and then dropped in to my stomach as I realised I was looking at a pterodactyl. Loping away from a low branch, it’s massive wings somehow rolling up and then unrolling in an unbelievably slow movement, it rose gracefully, magnificently away from me.

Regaining my composure, with my trusty Kodak Digital at my side, I still managed to miss the chance of a great picture and Capone, my faithful, four-legged companion, just looked at me in disgust before doing his own loping away towards the sea.

Ever since then I’ve been hunting the heron and its mate, for there are two of them cruising the farmland, woods and foreshore between Emsworth, Warblington and Langstone. I’ve seen it perhaps half a dozen times in as many months, once just three feet above my head as I walked down one of Havant’s more exclusive residential avenues. Every time I fumble for my camera, it uncurls those great wings, folds its neck up in dinosaur style and leaves me in disarray.

Every day produces something remarkable in this little haven on the south coast. Across Chichester and Langstone harbours the Portsmouth Spinnaker tower glints bright white in the sun. Crowds of brent geese grow bigger and individually fatter by the day and the oyster catchers screech low along the water’s edge, swinging in formation to display the dazzling zigzags along their backs.

When the brent geese first came in from their summer home in the arctic, they would gather in one huge flock of perhaps five hundred in a field just above the sea. Capone would put them up in a force five south-westerly and they would head seaward in a cacophony of honking, flapping wings getting them nowhere, directly into the gale. I would walk on with them above and all around me, hanging motionless, creating a world of noise and feathers and wind and dog and insignificant me.

Warblington cemetery contains a piteous children’s section where the gravestones are decorated with teddies, windmills, rubber ducks, Rupert and Peter Rabbit. Every day that two minute walk touches me but never more so than on Christmas morning. Then, the really remarkable thing was the intense, beaming smiles that both the bereaved mothers gave me as they tended their child’s grave. Walking into the south-westerly that morning made my eyes water as never before.

The March storms brought both drama and damage, the fields along the coast displaying lines of seaweed 40 yards further back than usual. Other dog walkers who live right on the foreshore told me their roof tiles were tinkling like a xylophone. Parts of Emsworth were flooded. The sea overflowing the mill pond wall filled the empty eight and a half acre pond in half an hour and brought down great lengths of the inner retaining wall. I found myself up to my knees in overflowing sea as it swept in round the sailing clubhouse and caused chaos in the dinghy park.

This morning I left the warmth of Nore Barn Wood and struck out across the most heavily pigeoned stubble field I know. Then to my right a white object caught my eye in the middle of the boggy area that runs down to the stream where the pterodactyl had first frightened me. Capone and I diverted and plugged our way towards it but it was still, inert, probably one of those plastic bags that Emsworth has virtually done away with. We trudged on, me avoiding the cow pats, Capone stepping in every one and relaxed into the warm morning sunshine, another storm promised for the weekend.

It rose again, elegant and yet ponderous at the same time, lofted up and away and gone.

Peter Reynolds 20-03-08