Today has been a good one.
My elderly car (she’s 166) passed its MOT without any kind of mechanical fail or advisory. To my recollection, apart from tyres, this has been the case every single time she’s gone under the microscope and I can honestly say that the advertising slogan is true.
Few things in life are as reliable as a Volkswagen.
While my car was being worked on I elected (instead of sitting and waiting for hours like I used to do) to walk into Warwick. As with most places it’s been a very long time since I came into the centre of town – and even longer since I just walked around it.
After a slow walk up the hill from the garage I arrived in the town square. I was a bit early (it was about 8.50am) and it seemed that the vast majority of the town was fast asleep. I decided that coffee would be a good idea and looked left at Cafe Nero and right to Costa… Hmmm… Neither are my first choice.
Costa. I’ll do that.
I opened the door to Costa and walked in. Atmosphere, zero. Life, zero. Willingness to spend money in there? Zero.
It then occurred to me that my pennies could be better spent in a local coffee shop, and just over the road was the Market Place Pantry. As soon as I sat down I felt good about my choice. It’s owned by a mother and daughter, and I feel much better about giving them my support than I do a huge multinational.
Go Alison and Emily! They were slaving away behind the counter and in their kitchen (which was reassuringly hot and busy) to make all the cakes and salads on their menu that just arrive in little packets on a lorry for Costa or Nero. They were pouring their heart and souls into the business and while I was there I heard nothing but good things.
I’m beginning to think lately that now I’m more mobile I need to shift as much of my support to local business as I reasonably can instead of chain stores. I’m glad I did today. Alison and Emily seemed like normal, nice people trying to make a living opposite a place that brought little originality and warmth to the square.
I hope they prosper.
After my coffee I continued to wander around the charity shops and up and down the high street – but in truth there’s not an awful lot going on – unless you’re there for a meal or a drink – neither of which was on my mind. Although I was a bit hungry and hadn’t yet had breakfast.
As I wandered out of town, past Eastgate and down the menagerie of little shops in Smith Street I finally found breakfast, in the shape of two large rustic looking apples and two huge carrots from a local greengrocer at the bottom of the road.
91p for my little bag of goodness.
I wish i’d paid more attention to the shop name and variety of apples as they were absolutely exceptional. I’m going back to get more later.
As I strolled on munching my carrot I passed Priory Park.
Now this place is somewhere that has never really appealed to me – and every time I’ve driven by I’ve never thought ‘I must go there.’ It’s always looked a bit rough from the outside – and I guess I’ve considered it a poor second to St Nics.
However – it couldn’t be further from the truth. This park is a different type of experience to the curated and manicured Jephson Gardens and child friendly fun palace at St Nics. This is grass and woodland, with almost no concrete paths – where the worn dirt trails into little wooded areas prompt exploration and investigation. As I entered a son and father were playing rugby, and the spirited youngster was trying to pull the ball from his father’s grasp and avoid capture once it had been released.
Further up the hill on a bench sat a young mother with a little poodle on an extended lead. She was feeding her newborn baby from a bottle and looked about as happy as one can expect to be, under a tree, surrounded by grass with a contented suckling infant.
I said hello to her and moved on. There was a trail to her left, leading into a damp clearing. It smelt earthy and like wet leaves and grass. I had to have a look!
As I wandered forward into a little clearing I could feel the crunch of acorns underfoot and started to look at and photograph some of the more curious fungi attached to the base of an oak. It seemed to be covered with a brown spray – maybe a fungicide…
As I was inspecting at this I heard a dog behind me and turned to see a beautiful doberman pincher with a lustrous black coat and a shiny chain necklace.
‘She’s OK!’ I heard a voice say behind me. An elderly man with a dog lead around his neck was taking a seat on a nearby bench.
‘Is she OK to stroke?’ I asked.
‘Sure – she’s fine – thats if you can catch her!’ He replied.
I leaned out to stroke the dog, whose coat felt like velvet. She looked healthy and very well looked after. I managed to trail my hand along her back briefly before she was gone. She wanted to eat acorns and was munching on whatever she could find.
‘She’s lovely!’ I enthused, sitting on the opposite end of the bench.
‘Molly’s a rescue dog. They both are.’ he said motioning to another (older) chubby black and white terrier with its nose in a bush behind us. Sensing it was being talked about the terrier moved round to the front of the bench and hopped up by it’s master.
(photo used with express permission)
‘She’s called Domino for obvious reasons.’
He pointed at the big black spots on her back. She was clearly wanting fun and now both dogs were ready for treats, which he had in his pocket.
‘I get a big bag of them – couple of quid from Aldi. They love em.’ He looked at Molly. ‘Paw please.’ He said. Molly slightly cocked her head and handed him a paw. He rewarded her with a treat, and gave another to Domino.
As we sat he told me about all the rescue dogs he’d had over the years. He seemed to have a real love in particular for the doberman breed, and he said that the trick to keeping her healthy was feeding his dogs the same meat and leftovers that he ate himself. He didn’t think Molly would look like that if she’d been fed out of a can. I tended to agree – the results didn’t lie.
‘I was thinking of getting a dog.’ I said. ‘I love them – but I didn’t want to leave it at home when I was at work and it seemed cruel.’
‘They need a lot of walking.’ He said. ‘You should get one though – they’re good for weight loss.’
‘I’ve already lost nearly five stone.’ I said. ‘I’ve been going to Slimming World.’ He asked me where and I told him. He knew the place well. ‘That’s good going! He said enthusiastically.’
We carried on chatting and it seemed we’d both had family bereavements recently. As we briefly shared some history I mentioned that mine (though it had been hard) had ultimately provided a positive impetus in life.
He nodded. ‘You just have to get on with things.’ He said reflectively, stroking Domino. ‘Life goes on.’
I don’t know why but at that moment I felt the need to show him my selfies from yesterday’s blog. While he looked at the two photos I told him that this week I’d been walking to virtual France, and that today, walking around warwick and this park I’d done it.
I’d arrived on the virtual shore of virtual Calais. So far this week I’d walked approximately 32 miles.
He looked impressed, which if I’m honest made me feel good. It’s nice to be able to talk about feeling successful rather than feeling like a failure, and it underlined how some of the worst events in life can be re-framed and made into something good.
Nearby Molly had begun to evacuate the acorns and was squatted by a tree.
‘I better go pick that up.’ He laughed, getting a carrier bag out of his pocket. ‘Nice to meet you. See you later – good luck with the weight!’
I shook his hand, exchanged names and carried on – back to the garage to pick up my car. She passed with flying colours. There wasn’t a thing wrong with her.
Today internet was just full of real people, and that was what made it so enjoyable. I might have walked to virtual France, but truthfully it’s only a means to an end.
It’s the means to meet people like this, and talk about their thoughts and lives.
That’s what all of this is about – and every moment of it is a blessing.