Thursday, September 13, 2007

Taking My Time

I was walking Amy this morning when we came upon a little old lady making her way slowly down the main road. She looked frail and she was walking, with some difficulty, using a cane. Conscious of Amy's addiction to coming face-to-face (or rather tongue to face) with anyone she meets, I carefully steered her into the grass verge to let the old lady pass by : but she stopped and bent to give Amy a pat on the head. Glancing in the direction of the main road down to Brighouse she said "Am I alright for the back door of the Crematorium?" My deafness has taught me to pause for a moment before answering a question just to mentally double-check I had heard things properly. Thus I worked out she was probably asking for directions and there is indeed a footpath that leads to the Crematorium about a quarter of a mile down the road. I explained the distances involved and the somewhat uneven state of the path. "Look", I said, "I live just around the corner and I have my car there, why don't I give you a lift?" She looked at me kindly. "No thanks", she replied. "It's a bit before I need to be there and I am in no hurry. I'll just take my time". We parted and I thought about this strange conversation. Had I, in fact, interpreted her question correctly? Why was this elderly woman making her way so slowly and with such difficulty to the Crematorium. At the corner of the road I glanced back to the main road. I realise that a perfect ending to this little story would be that the lady had vanished. The odd thing, the really odd thing, was that she had. I have been feeling a bit fed up these last few days. Not depressed or anything like that, just a bit down. The reason why is probably not hard to work out. A friend and a colleague from Marsden Jazz Festival died last week after a very short illness. He is the second member of our small Committee to have died in less than a year. Such things just remind you of mortality and all such things. He will be cremated on Monday at the Crematorium : and I will go. But if I see the little old lady there I will give her the knowing look of a visitor who is just passing by. I too, am taking my time.


  1. A perfect candidate for the Times ghost story competition: Entries due by the end of the month. The first prize is a night in a haunted house. Somebody said the second prize should be two.

  2. I've re-read this and re-read this. Brilliant writing and spookEY. The woman was obviously a ghost of the living not yet ready to go to the crematorium but getting close. But would be shortly.... As you say, not quite yet her time. Or yours.

    Or maybe I've just read too many complicated stories... mind you, I didn't half enjoy them!

    Jane suddenly said to me on the boat the other day how somebody had said it was so odd to be a parson's son. I said, well, yes, I've tried to tell you that quite a lot of times (I am one of those.)

    Why? Well, for a start, births marriages and deaths happen every week. At one time my father was marrying up to five couples on a Saturday. And there were always two or three funerals per week... It kinda gives a different slant on life that this is NORMAL to deal with such things, when you are only four years old.

    And we quite often had sad or mad people ring the doorbell at things like 4 a.m.. I especially remember the one lady who was completely inappropriately carrying some holly..... wrong time of year. It was a gorgeous summer morning.

    I said (in my pyjamas and 13 years old)... oh DO come in, you need a cup of tea. I expect you want to talk to my father, I'm afraid he's fast asleep but I'll take him a cup of tea and I'm sure he'll be happy to have a chat.

    She eyed me in disbelief not realising I'd met a similar situation many times...

    She worried about our (Labrador) dog, but to be honest he didn't bother to wake up. Beyond a slight wag of the tail it was me making tea... at an absurdly early hour and he wanted his sleep.


Black Friar

For a time, during the late 1970s, I had a job leading parties of foreign visitors on tours of historic London pubs. One of my favourite sto...