Day 14: Hardmead to Goldington

A long haul through flat Bedfordshire fields coated in stubble and clay. In the most part it was particularly hard going as many farmers score out the paths, perhaps to spite walkers.

We lunched with Anne Atkins, one of the most ballsy people I know. She meets adversity with a head butt and a two finger salute and we had a delightful time laughing together. Her younger daughter Rose was with her, a delightful teenager and well able to hold her own despite our rowdy conversation.

Although the company was great the restaurant was dire as usual and makes me wonder why we don’t just take a picnic.

The waiters are part of the problem. Sadly not an alert Bulgarian or an enthusiastic Latvian in sight. Pity, that. We are obliged to endure the usual slab faced, expressionless, taciturn “Who the heck are you?” treatment. This attitude seems to be more or les universal. We have never been greeted by a waiter with, “Welcome and how nice to see you,” or, “Have you travelled far?” for it seems that none have been taught sufficient social graces to allow them to kick-start a conversation with a stranger. It’s very sad. In American restaurants you will be greeted by a fresh faced youngster who plonks a glass tinkling with iced water in front if you. They then give you their courteous attention.

Today’s sloppy crew in our pubs slouch behind the bar, challenging you to come and get it! A request for a drink is greeted by a grunt.

I’ll bet there’s a huge factory sited somewhere near Wigan that supplies these third rate pubs with pre-cooked food: just shove it in a microwave and serve it on slates (not plates) so they can charge a premium.

Then back through Bedford town. A dreary day in a dreary place.

But Anne Atkins and Rose were fun!


Strange Alchemy

One of my friend’s marriages has been teetering on the brink for some time. Last month, it finally collapsed in bitterness and acrimony. Whilst many mutual friends protest that apportioning blame is the last thing on their minds, some have taken sides and seem even to be enjoying themselves in the process. Stephen (the husband) is obsessed by trying to prove to all and sundry that he is 100 per cent in the right, and that the blame for the collapse lies entirely with his now stranded wife, Ellen, for her infidelity.


The Mystery of Marriage

I think this is pure baloney. No one is 100 per cent innocent, for life is more complex than that. Over the years, I have witnessed the failure of several marriages, and I have warmed my hands before some glowing successes. In every case I have wondered at the strange alchemy that is at the heart of it – and I have never found any logic, for marriage is as mysterious as life or fire. I only know it lives privately in its own universe, and what is presented to the onlooker is but a fleeting shadow of the reality beyond.

Scripture tells us marriage is a mystical union, and when it fails only cold ashes remain – and a litter of problems to be resolved. Do we stay or do we go? Do we pretend, and if so, for how long? Or do we fight? Can we quicken our jaded senses, or do we deaden them further with drink and pills? What will become of our precious children who must be nurtured and loved come what may? And how do we rediscover the mystery without which there can be no real love?

There but by the grace of God go we all. Poor Stephen and poor Ellen.


Put Down

An actor friend of mind told me how he had managed to deal with a heckler at one of his plays. The man was persistent and wouldn’t shut up.

“Henry, darling,” shouted the actor. “It was wonderful while it lasted, but you have to accept it’s over!”


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