Just before it starts

Our first little review came out. Most of us get a sentence, although the reviewer appears to have forgotten some of us. I get “feels like you’re going further into the forest”. I can work with that. Come with me my dears, further now. Further into the forest. It’s one of the places I belong.

Find the irascible snuffly badger… Here he sits, in his sett, with his weapons and his whack-a-weasel, ready to teach you that fears are things to be confronted rather than avoided.

It’s another soft evening, and no rain is forecast. The good people of Oxford scull past in a variety of different aquatic vehicles, enjoying a summer evening that is closer to perfect than many we’ve had so far. A light breeze stirring currents on the surface of the Cherwell. Yesterday’s rain just a memory held in a few little puddles on the pathways. My hayfever has improved, although I’m still stealthily honking into tissues when they aren’t watching.

Sound carries a long way in the stillness of the evening. I can hear the knives and forks as some neighbors eat supper in their garden. They likely hate me, disturbing their peace on a loop every evening with my “left right left”. Then there are the dog whistles. Some bastard somewhere has recommended you go and get a whistle that can be heard six miles away in order to train your lockdown puppy. The sodding things are everywhere and they all sound the same. Dogs and kestrels for miles around are likely getting traumatised as their unfamiliar handlers substitute blowing into a tube for being a bit firmer in the first place.

A couple just went by on a punt and got totally snagged in a willow tree. We really are in Oxford now. They’re enjoying themselves anyway but they’ve been stuck for a good five minutes. “Clearly we are trying to get as much foliage in this punt as possible,” he says.

“All ready?” That’s the text on the show WhatsApp. “Always ready,” I reply. Although in fact I’m only half set up and I’m enjoying listening to everything going on around me knowing that there’s no chance of anybody getting close to me for at least fifteen more minutes.

Toad is warming his voice up behind me, singing up and down the octave, diligent as always. A lovely old fellow with a stick and a straw hat just stopped by to say good evening. “It may be alright tomorrow by this time,” he tells me, defaulting to the weather without a topic having been introduced yet – “but it won’t be during the day. It’ll be raining.”. Old men in straw hats tend to know these things. Lou said the same thing. I’ll be putting on my raincoat tomorrow.

For now I’m going to enjoy the stillness while it lasts. The children are coming and there’s a lot of energy between now and bedtime. I’d like to have a go on a punt before I leave Oxford. I remember many a drunken summer day with half remembered friends in the days before mobile phones, capsizing one another and getting stuck in trees… I think I’d opt for a more sedate experience now instead. But that might be fun on a day off…

For now, time to get up. Showtime. Switch that body on. Here we go…

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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