Walk With Me Through the Long Grass and I Shall Hold Your Hand By Steven Holding
We shared adventures you and I. Seized the weekend by its ankles then hoisted it upside down, furiously shaking Saturdays until nothing remained in its turned-out pockets. Three fuzzy channels in black and white bored us to tears. Who had time to try and decipher the snooker when there was a technicolour world demanding to be explored?
Two kids on their pushbikes (or in rockets, or tanks!) Endless miles of tangled countryside. For us it was a steaming jungle or the deadly surface of Venus; a dried-out ditch a trench in the Somme, a blackberry thicket attacking triffids.
Those fields were our ocean, defining the edges of everything. The rest of the universe, both good and bad, lay quietly waiting for us, out of our sight, somewhere over the horizon.
Growing older, that territory shifted, shaped by nature as well as ourselves, once familiar landmarks assuming a deeper significance within our ever-expanding lives. Overgrown top-secret dens where dreams were once readily shared now concealed carefully stashed cans and well-thumbed glamour mags; the knotted oak that only you could ever climb looming large in our minds that evening we feasted on the fairy ring we found lurking in its shadow.
The low moan of the rusty kissing gate, and those sweaty days when it finally lived up to its name.
We hadn’t talked for years when a newspaper headline yelled out at me from the wire racking of a train station tobacconists. You, of course, had gone on to become quite the celebrity. I, on the other hand, was more than content with my average life and the anonymity it afforded me. Seeing your name, I fumbled to grab a copy, suddenly frozen in time as brief-cased commuters swarmed past me, tutting loudly as I selfishly caused a split-second delay in their journey to who knows where. The print quickly smudged, turning my thumbs and fingers purple as the article informed me of what you had done; the tabloid seeming to relish its graphic description of every lurid detail. When I saw the location you had chosen, I could feel the place calling out to me immediately.
In a story, I would have dropped everything and boarded a steam train there and then, experiencing deep and meaningful insights as I travelled, gazing from an open window with a melancholic expression. Real life, as we know, is much less dramatic.
Two weeks later I rang in sick to work; made the three-hour drive in my battered hatchback. I would have played our favourite album, but, you know, the stereo was broken.
Parking up by the village green, I was surprised that the gate was still there. Happy that it remained unoiled.
Regardless of what I felt, at least your actions took me there once again. Strolling through the long grass, smiling as the sunlight kissed my skin, I think I understood.
If the truth be told, are not all of us simply seeking a way to get back home?
Take my hand.