Outrunning the Mist

It’s a strange, warm-chill morning, just after half seven. The mist still lingers around the lower stretch of the parks, ear the ponds. A bagpiper has started up. He’s obscured by the trees, but we can hear some plaintive tune.

“In the first world war they sent pipers out in front of the troops to scare the Germans.”

“Did it work?”

“Probably not. At least, not after the firs time.”

My 14 year old son is in his tracksuit, jiggling about excitedly. We’ve stated doing running in the park, before school. Short intervals sprints, about 50 yards, then walking back.

The piper is now playing ‘Amazing Grace’. The mist seems to be moving towards us.

“3-2-1 go!” I shout and we are off. Me in front of him by miles, I think, then in the last few strides he lopes past me and wins by about five or six metres.”

“That was fun.” He laughs.

He is now faster than me. An inch shorter, about three and a half stone lighter, but he has looseness, a happy explosive elasticity.

We go again. This time it’s closer, as I’m trying harder. Walking back, the dog runs around our feet, trying to get us to kick his tennis ball.

‘Amazing Grace’ is still going. A park warden is walking over to where the piper is hiding behind the trees (Horse Chestnut?).

Third run. I’m winning all the way until the last couple of strides. He glides past me, still talking about how pipers have been in the British Army for a long time.

The park warden is striding back now. The piper is playing a different tune, something melancholy. The warden must have asked for a request.

Next sprint, he wins by a long way.

The mist is moving towards us.

I kick the tennis ball and the dog goes sprinting off, but in the wrong direction. My son runs after him and kicks the ball again. The dog is getting old, his eyes are going.

Fifth run. I’m nearly there, trying to relax into the running. It’s pretty much a dead heat, though a photo finish would have had him as the winner.

Last run. He is away fast and wins by ten metres. I’m knackered. The mist has stopped halfway up the park, reminding me of the time the tower block on Green Lanes was demolished 15 years or so ago and the dust cloud enveloped the lower reaches almost up to the raised New River bank.

We walk home. He his happy. The piper plays on his sad tune.

High Speed Metaphor Bloke with Lager

I’m trudging back from the park, feeling tired and for some reason dejected by the clammy cold breeze that’s whipping off the pavement into my threadbare old jumper. A bloke in army fatigues heads down the road towards me, at a fair old clip. He’s on one of those self balancing motorized unicycle things. As he zips past me I see he’s holding a can of extra strong lager and talking on the phone in Russian. He takes a nifty left turn, sips from his can and carries on the conversation. He’s a metaphor. Heading north towards Finsbury Park.

Though it might have been Polish.

Wind in the first week of October

The wind always gets suddenly colder in the first week of October. It’s the beginning of browns and reds appearing everywhere. I walk my youngest son to school. He can’t resist kicking through the piles of dry leaves. He simply has to walk through them. It’s as if he is pulled along by an unseen force. And it slows him down as he turns round for another go

Back home I notice the little shrubby tree in a pot a the front of our house has shed most of its leaves, but it still has its deep pink seed pods, like tiny rose coloured pumpkins. The plant belonged to our late next door neighbour… he had a great selection of front garden plants that I redistributed around he neighbourhood after he died.

Today is the birthday of our late next door neighbour on the other side (both have died in the last year and a half). He would have been 65 today, but succumbed to lung cancer in June. On our hedge cutting days we would chat and he sometimes mentioned vague plans about moving to a cottage in the country with his beloved dog. But I have my doubts. He was born and brought up around here, in these streets, with this wind.

Our next door neighbour, on Local hedge Day.