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Rear View Mirror: Stop And Stare

Taxi driver Tony Schumacher blocks out the clang of life, just yards from the M62

Written by . Published on August 8th 2011.

Rear View Mirror: Stop And Stare

MY best mate lives in central London, a huge, cacophonous, clanging bell of a place.

Our daily phone calls are punctuated with sirens in traffic, the ebb and flow of passing conversations in 100 different tongues, bleepers on bus doors and the crashes of cups and plates in busy cafes.

He sails through it with a Zen-like calm, aloof from what goes on around him, only occasionally needled by shouting kids on the back seat of a bus.
The barley was being caressed by the wind and dipped and swayed as if invisible angels where flying low, playing chase on a spring morning off
I don’t know how he does it; at the end of our calls I normally need a moment to collect myself. Tom after Jerry has slammed some cymbals either side of his head.
Where I live it is about five minutes walk for me and the big daft dog to an insanely busy motorway junction. Every day I run the gauntlet of impatient drivers and kerb hopping cyclists (oh for some cheese wire). I often have to step aside for joggers in trances, wearing iPods that remind me of the electrodes on Frankenstein’s monster. Trucks drag trailers, inches at a time, hissing and sighing at the change of a traffic light, like kids in a queue at a funfair.

At the weekend, motorcyclists career around: fortysomething men frantically chasing the thrills they miss from their youth. I tend to doubt they’ll catch them, no matter how fast they go.  But it gets them out the house, away from teenagers and wives, who may be happy to hear them roar into the distance.
One man and his dogOne man and his dogI battle through this war zone because, on the other side, is my secret garden. A hidden footpath leads the way down the side of the motorway and through some dense trees to a country lane that leads nowhere.
The lane was made redundant by the motorway many years ago, cats eyes run down its middle waiting for headlights that will never come, and a moss covered road sign warns of a bend that has long since heard a screech of tyre.

We normally stop and say hello to the two horses that stand in a field. Maurice and Barry (it’s a teeth thing) wander over when they see us coming, they stick their heads over the stone wall and wait for a nose scratch from me and a sniff from big daft dog.
If I walk on, and I always do, by the time I’ve reached the stream with its bridge, the sound of the motorway is long behind us. I once saw a kingfisher flit over the water, an artists’ brush, an electric blue flourish that took my breath away.
“Did you see that?” I said to the dog, but he didn’t answer, he never does. He just stood on his hind legs looking over the bridge, like always, trying to catch a glimpse of a squirrel or maybe a water rat. If he sees one his tale will frantically shout “Did you see that?”... And if I’m lucky, I did.
We carry on past the corn field and up past the stables with the old guy who never says hello, he always looks across and raises a hand, never a word just a hand. In his other he carries his bucket, always his bucket, maybe he was born with it, along with his blue bib-and-brace and his silence.
I once watched him looking out across a field of still green barley; he stood still, with his bucket, for what seemed like an age. The barley was being caressed by the wind and dipped and swayed as if invisible angels where flying low, playing chase on a spring morning off.

When he saw me he raised his hand and tilted his head to the field, and I knew what he meant and watched it with him for a while. Although we were sixty feet apart, we were together for a moment.

The dog and I turn and walk along the lane, and then through an old farm yard. Rusting machinery lies around, an elephant’s graveyard with a stone barn that pines for its long lost roof like a bald man might for a perm.
A sharp left and we are in the fields, off in the distance I can see the motorway but if I turn my head, and I always do, I see only gently rolling fields. In summer, if the winds blow, the corn moves like silk on a starlet’s thigh, holding my gaze and making me stop and stare.
No playful angels this time, the corn is yellow and crackles in the wind, its heavy headed ears are nearly ready for the reapers scythe, which, when it passes will leave the field awash with broken stalks of stubble, like a battlefield shorn of life.

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Onwards to another lane that leads to another bridge. This one is modern and from its crest you can see Wales on a good day, and Runcorn on a bad one.

Last Saturday, during a rare day of daylight work, I picked up a little old lady in the city centre. I sat waiting for her surrounded by buses and cars. When she finally opened the door, fumes and noise punched my senses like a stun grenade and she quickly slammed it shut and grabbed her seat belt tightly across her chest, a stressful day coming to an end.

“Oooooh” she exhaled, the hustle and bustle of a Saturday shop detailed in a drawn out sigh.

“Where to, love?”

“Somewhere quiet,” she replied quick as a flash.

Fifteen minutes later, I dropped her at her house on Edge Lane. Now it’s a long time since Edge Lane resembled anything like the lane I mentioned above; it thunders with traffic most hours, of a night its speed cameras flash more often than a paparazzi's chasing Paris Hilton, but stand redundant in daylight as traffic inches past, a giant mechanical glacier.

Somewhere by a motorway?Somewhere by a motorway?“I don’t know how you live here, what with all this traffic,” I said as she collected her bags.
Someone gave me the finger for holding him up from pulling forward 30ft. He “squeezed” past with three feet to spare and shouted something I couldn’t hear, his mouth moving like a goldfish in a plastic bag.

Good job I don’t do road rage.

“You get used to it,” she said, but then paused, suddenly wistful. “I have to say, though, it would be nice to go somewhere with peace and quiet every now and then. Mind you, it’s difficult to find anywhere like that nowadays isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I thought, “because I’m not telling you where it is.”

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AnonymousAugust 8th 2011.

Sounds almost as good as Gateacre Path... First Pond, Second Pond, Third Pond... roll the stone a bit further down the path every time... hope Wendy Bruce might be playing down there... arrive in the middle of ancient Britain... go back years later and wonder - who has built Netherley while I was away?

Denise NewmanAugust 8th 2011.

Felt peaceful just reading that, would love to do that walk with you one day.

mrsmarsaAugust 9th 2011.

ah Mr Schumacher! vg

AnonymousMay 19th 2014.

Lovely writing

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