It’s random challenge number 12 today, writing something, anything on the subject of or inspired by the word ‘point.’
“Is it much farther?” I tried to sound as if it was a genuine question not a subtle moan about how endless this trail was. I really am not a big fan of walking; I don’t mind going from a place to another place on foot, and I see the fitness value of striding out rather than always taking the car, in fact I deliberately park in a distant part of a carpark so I have to walk further. But actually going to a place and then just walking because you like walking, well I don’t, I just don’t. A lovely walk is one that’s finished.
Why were we here anyway, why were we walking, a little too quickly to be entirely comfortable, over a barren promontory, any views over the sea obscured by a dull haze?
Jennifer kept saying things like ‘oh look, a honewort, that’s so rare, you know, we’re really lucky to see it!‘ It looked like rather weedy cow parsley to me, but I tried to be enthusiastic and took a photo on my phone. ‘I think this is the bowl barrow! The disc barrow must be round here somewhere, but let’s press on! ‘ I suppose the lump that she was exclaiming over might be man-made, I was a little sceptical but asked how old she thought it was – probably four thousand years old or more, she said as we rushed on. ‘Oh my goodness, ranunculus parviflorus – ‘ I didn’t ask, just saw how uninteresting the small yellow flower was and didn’t pause to take a photo. I wanted to ask why we were here, what was so important, what did she want to show me and why. I didn’t ask because Jennifer was quite wound up, quite emotional, her eyes glittering as if there were tears, and her smile too broad and for no reason. She isn’t a naturally smiley person, except when she’s nervous she bares her teeth in an odd way as if she was forcing a smile.
But actually, why were we here? Why did she want us to walk along this spit of land jutting out into the Bristol Channel? There was some purpose to this walk, some reason, but I just didn’t know it, and couldn’t imagine it. I was bored and grumpy but I tried my hardest not to let it show, particularly the grumpy bit. Plonk, plonk, plonk, one foot after the other, having to watch my step on the uneven surface and to avoid casual sheep shit and illegally deposited dog poo. And then the haze turned into more of a mist, and the mist into a sort of suspended drizzle, and I wished I had brought a coat.
I nearly said, are we nearly there yet, because there was some reason for this, some motive; when she had rung and asked me to come for a walk she’d spoken in such a desperate sounding way that I immediately thought she wanted to tell me something – her job was in jeopardy, there was some problem with her family, she had something wrong with her, but when I’d asked anxiously if everything was alright, she gave a genuine laugh at my concern and said yes all was fine, and I believed her. But you will come for this walk with me, won’t you? I’ll buy the cream tea afterwards! It wasn’t just the cream tea which made me say yes, there was something behind her request. The fact she didn’t want to tell me the reason she wanted me to go for a walk when she knows I don’t like walking, was enough for me to get a grip on myself and say that yes, of course I’d come for the walk! And I tried to say it as cheerfully and sincerely as I could.
We crested the rise, passing the triangulation station, and started down towards where I knew from the only previous time I’d been coerced into this route-march, led down the a cliffy area and to a pebbly beach at the very end of the headland. It was quite steep and I silently moaned in anticipation of the return journey back up – for every down there’s an up, and the up seems twice as steep as the down in the opposite direction. There was a rough path down to the little beach and we descended carefully, Jennifer muttering that she wished she’d brought her walking poles. I had the feeling that whatever the reason for us coming here, and there was a reason, it would be soon revealed. We had met in the carpark at the beach end, had hugged and exchanged greetings and headline news, then Jennifer had pulled on her hat and gloves and I wished I’d remembered mine, and I’d said breezily so why are we here? Why are we off on this-route march? What’s it all in aid of? I’d said it quite jovially, trying as usual to be funny, but now I thought I’d been quite crass. Jennifer hadn’t answered but spoken about something else, and I’d thought she was embarrassed that she’d asked me to come, and I was sorry that she felt like that because I would do anything for her.
We arrived in the cove and we were alone, no others had ventured along here in this mizzle. The sea was listless, and there was no wind. We were here for some particular thing and at least I didn’t start making trivial conversation or start wandering about looking for interesting stones, pretty shells or unusual bits of driftwood. I just stood beside Jennifer, slightly out of breath but thank goodness keeping my mouth shut.
“I know you’re wondering why we’re here,” she said. “Thank you for not asking, thanks for just being here with me.”
Well this was mysterious, and I wisely just smiled and said nothing.
“You’re wondering what’s the point in coming all the way along here in this not very nice weather.”
True, and thankfully I didn’t make any crack about the point of coming to Sand Point.
“We’re here to say goodbye to Alison – yes, I know there was the funeral, and I know her ashes will be interred at the crem, but her wish was that we should say farewell to her properly here, to let her go.”
I was utterly stunned, good heavens! Nothing had prepared me for this, and Jennifer went on to say that we were the last two of the Famous Five, as we’d called ourselves at school, Valery, Linda, Alison and Jennifer and me.
“When she was very poorly she asked me if I would do this for her, not her children, not David, not her family or other friends, but us, the Famous Five.”
Jennifer undid her backpack and pulled out a small casket wrapped in a pink silk scarf, and I remembered when Alison had dyed her hair pink and there had been a terrific fuss at school.
We went to where the sea just hung around, neither coming nor going, just waiting, and without another word, Jennifer opened the box and we squatted down and she let Alison drift onto the languid waves. Jennifer put the box into the water and it bobbed about, and then as if the tide had made up its mind, the casket slowly began to drift away and we stood up and waited as Alison was gradually embraced by the sea.