I love the Ridgeway.
I love to walk on it, to ride my bike on it, to think on it.
It’s a very ancient road and summons a small part of me which is not allowed out very often and then only on her secret own. It’s that romantic or sentimental side of me, a side of me that still has the capacity to wonder, rather than scorn, or analyse, or construct very long sentences – a side of me that isn’t smart or funny or at all grown up, a floaty, gentle side that I worry for in our ferociously competitive world.
The Ridgeway has been in use since prehistoric times by travellers, by herdsmen and by soldiers. I like to think about the millions of feet that have tramped its rutted chalky paths and puddles. I like to look at the patchwork view which only seems more mysterious in its beauty the longer I look at it.
On Thursday I took my children up there on their bikes. It was slow-going. As Standpoint reflected the other day, on these trips one of them always seems to take on the role of Problem-Child.
So two of the children had gone on ahead to wait at a pre-arranged point while I followed with that morning’s Problem, who turned the 40 minute outing into a two-hour epic of slow-motion sulking and scraped body parts.
At one particularly low moment a man with a dog and a hatchety face passed us. ‘You seem to be lagging,’ he said helpfully. And when he spoke I suddenly knew who he was.
He has a distinctive face. It’s a face you could search a long time for any kind of symmetry. Nothing seems to fit in that face, as if more than two parents had been involved in its construction, or perhaps the whole thing was done by lucky dip. It’s a Timothy Winters face, a face you have to look at for a long time to keep seeing that its oddness and refusal to resolve are real.
He is a writer. I’m not going to say what he writes in case anyone who knows him or loves him should read this and be hurt.
I once attended a seminar he was leading. We then sat next to each other at the sort of lunch I can only describe as an exercise in pure awkward.
He sat next to me. He arrived at the round table which was only half full, took a long look at those of us already sitting and sat down next to me. He chose my company.
This is only important because he spent the next 30 minutes being really quite unnecessarily rude, thereby flabbering my ghast and leading me to wonder why, why, why he chose to sit next to me if he thought I was so rudeworthy.
Of course, as a wannabe, I was hoping to impress him. Everyone knows that if you make friends with successful writers you will be published. Whether or not you have written your novel. Which I have not.
Have you guessed what this is yet? I bet you haven’t. There’s no way you could have guessed, unless, perhaps you are Tonya Cannariato, and have just paid me the compliment of awarding me the One Lovely Blog Award and the Reader Appreciation Award. Thank you Tonya. I am very flattered that you should include me for this as I know you are immensely well-read. The title of your blog is a huge giveaway on that score: A Book A Day.
I have seeded the story of my encounter with the Hatchet Man with at least 7 things about me, which is what I have to do to accept the award.
Here are some blogs I admire which I have to include as part of the Award protocol. Have a look at any or all of them for fun and enlightenment.
Well, I hope by now you’re wondering what Hatchet Features said to me that I found so ruffling. The answer is I can’t quite remember, but it was something about whether or not I knew the name of my electrician.
Anyone not familiar with the English obsession with class may, at this point, struggle. I don’t blame you. This obsession is baffling and even more baffling, our acquiescence in it. Call them toffs, posh or nobs (and some of my best friends are). Call them what you like. But as long as we agree they are toffs, posh or nobs, and make anything of that, the system stands and retains some of its power.
What Hatchet Chin was suggesting was that I am too posh to know the name of anyone so lowly as to fix my electricals so the house doesn’t burn down when I put the lights on.
The sophisticated response to this is ‘Fuck Off’. Unfortunately, it was the unguarded, vulnerable me, the Ridgeway rider, who had turned up to this lunch, and desperately wanted to be friends with the successful writer (because then I get published, right?). So I said something like, ‘Of course I know his name, it’s Kevin and in fact he’s quite a good friend of mine.’
*Blushing* as I’d put it on twitter.
That this is true (about Kevin) is not the point, although it could be another blog. The point was, or is, Hatchet Face was judging me and I didn’t have the sophistication to give it right back to him.
He is not my friend. Probably, I will never be published, as well.