We wandered out of the churchyard into the fields, watching the red kites soar over the treetops. There is something glorious in that sight that never fails to move us and it is no hardship to simply stand and watch. Of course, they weren’t the only thing that drew our eyes as the kite-coloured pony ambled over to say hello from its neatly mown paddock.
We were, I have to say, badly equipped, neither of us having any mints in our pockets for once. However, our new friend didn’t seem to mind… as long as we were prepared to make up for the lacuna by passing handfuls of the long, juicy grass from the meadow… the stuff just out of reach. Nothing loath, we lingered for a while conversing with our friend and enjoying the contact.
Leaving Wing some time later, we headed onwards towards Milton Keynes…a computer generated town of identical streets and roundabouts within which nestle pockets of beauty that were not swallowed by the planners. The surrounding countryside is scattered with pretty villages and many lovely old churches. We tried Soulbury. I have tried to get in there before and always found it locked. Being Sunday, it was both open and in use. We could have waited but as the service seemed to have only just begun we moved on, taking a roundabout and leisurely route towards the coach station.
Of course, by this time the pubs were open and Sunday lunch was sounding appealing. It was also hot and a long, cold drink would go down nicely too. I remembered a place on the canal and headed off in search of it, cursing the new road systems that snake across the countryside and put demands on my memory. I haven’t been that way for a few years. I found it though and we had timed it well, beating the rush and finding a table quite literally on the bank of the canal between the three locks.
“Not a bad find for a little grub,” conceded my companion, sipping his Guinness as we waited for our meal. We watched the fish jumping out of the murky water as the narrowboats navigated the locks, one after the other, discussing the pros and cons of the lifestyle. The speed of a narrowboat is perfect, a gliding, leisurely amble as opposed to the speeding bullets in which we spend so much of our lives… and miss so much too. It is an odd thing really, that the most useful things can be so detrimental. Without modern transport so much of the world would be out of reach for most of us… with it we travel so fast and so often that we miss much of what we could see.
We spent a while discussing the feasibility of taking Ani on a boat… whether she would be too territorial, barking at every passing duck, or whether she would feel herself to be marooned on a floating island within a gigantic bathtub and behave. The consensus was that we would probably spend our time reacting to the shout of ‘dog overboard’ and fishing a wet and grinning animal out of the water. Pity. I quite fancy spending some time on a narrowboat.
A final church, then we hit Milton Keynes, with just enough time to spare to call at the Swan, a lovely old thatched pub hidden within the housing developments. We had been there once before, on Stuart’s second visit to me, just over a year ago.
“We hadn’t even started writing about it all then….”
“Nope, and now look… three books together and a fourth underway…It’s not bad going!”
“Not bad. Not bad at all.”