Walking The Dog 4
Walking The Dog 4
Oh joy! Some real weather returns to crown the long bank holiday weekend and end the tedious republic of sunshine. Capone has to be dragged from the house because although he will plunge into an icy sea in the depths of winter, a little gentle drizzle is enough to deter him from leaving his lap of luxury inside.
So the riot act is read. The beast is told that there is no room for runts in this regiment and with hanging head and screwed up eyes we venture into the rain. Our normal cut through to the foreshore, where we usually hop over a gently dribbling stream, is transformed into a four foot deep raging torrent so we have to turn and take the long way round. The lead has to be reapplied twice before he finally takes the hint and then the full glory of Chichester harbour opens up in front of us.
The rain doesn’t just come down in sheets. It is like unravelling great bales of sailmaker’s cloth. The wind takes it and flaunts it and slaps you in the face. Already my trousers are soaking to the knees but now Capone’s tail is up. There’s a job to be done. The fat, snotty-nosed kids and their even fatter mothers have gone from the beach. The inflatable kayaks are back in the garage and high water beckons for the boards with their storm sails and the bold knights of the sea who will skim the waves and charge the surf. This is the glory of battle with the elements. Courage and determination and persistence and rain and wind, even if, alas, no sleet and snow.
Summer has some advantages for only in full leaf can the trees deposit an extra six or seven gallons with each gust. The gulls soar. The rooks rise and fall and the odd saturated pigeon flutters from the branches.
There is not another soul to be seen until out of the woods comes a solitary figure in wellies and a barbour but still in his summer shorts. Behind him plods his aging, morose labrador not yet encouraged to arms, still believing in the misinformation that it is calm and sun and quiet that leads to happiness.
Across the fields the barley shoots that have been reaching for the sun droop and sag under the weight of water but you can almost hear their roots sucking the moisture, preparing themselves with the energy to burst upwards once again when the skies clear. Nature has its own intelligence, far cleverer than the sophistication of man, far smarter than our short term, pleasure seeking easy lives. The true hedonism is in contrast and struggle. Only in the darkest hour is the brightest light. The arid desert is drenched in life-giving rain and inspiration comes when the gloom closes in tightest and grips hardest.
The beast understands nothing of this but he knows it all. At last, puddles are no longer avoided but splashed through. The spring returns to his step and the tail is held high and proud and wags uncontrollably as the sticks are found and thrown and retrieved.
Our route is not cut short by the weather. In fact, it is extended and though we meet one bedraggled runner and chance upon just one more of the regular dog walkers, this is the best walk in a month. Returning home for a vigorous towelling and a couple of quadruple espressos puts the seal on the bank holiday. This is how Mondays were meant to be.
Peter Reynolds 26-05-08