Babes in the wood
Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
160Trip End Oct 25, 2010
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Last autumn I chopped the tops off some gloomy laurel trees, expecting the trunks to bud out this spring.
They didn't and stood naked and accusing. I wondered what I could do to make them look happier. Then it came to me: Let's find some clay and make some big birds to perch on top of the sombre stakes.
Mieke and I had seen some lovely mole hills, the earth a warm brown-red, on an earlier walk. Would be perfect. We decided to go look for it.
It was nine-ish, Peter watching a match at Jacques' - Patsy said she could do with some peace and quiet. Off we go, taking the dogs.
We easily found the spot and went about filling shopping bags and what have you with the earth
Great, it was going well - what an excellent idea.
That'd show Peter, he thinks we can't manage these things without him.
It was a gorgeous evening, the sky pink, yellow and blue - still had time for a walk.
We took the car high up the hill and walked off. Thing was though, we were gabbing on and on and neither of us had made a note of where we'd left the car.
Much as I hate retracing my tracks, it seemed to make sense now.
No way, said Mieke, I'm not going back through the woods in the dusk. Besides, she knew exactly how to get back, which was just as well cos I hadn't a clue. Just follow me, she said. I did - for about the next three hours. We went round and round in circles, hopelessly lost. We walked, we ran, crossed meadows, climbed hills, waded through streams, fumbled through woods - me on my damn flip-flops, long Indian skirt and tiny vest, Mieke at least half decently dressed, dogs in tow. And no-one, no cars or anything else in sight. It was dark by now. The few houses we happened upon where dark, shutters closed for the night. Dogs howling as we approached.
Of course neither of us has a phone on us, stupid stupid - how stupid can you get?
Mieke, who I've looked up to my whole life, so courageous, falls apart.
I know cos she keeps asking me if I'm not scared, can I manage. God, I was actually quite enjoying the adventure till now. I mean, what's the worst thing that could happen to us? We'd have to sleep in the woods. It was the first really warm night and the moon was like a present from the gods - lovely, full, beautiful.
So are we lucky or what? Dogs will save us from the bogey men, and anyway, I'm sure they'd take pity on us and see us home safely if they caught us.
Course they would.
But Mieke refuses to see the bright side of our predicament. I'm not interested in full moons right now, she says, furiously stamping on in the wrong direction.
Do you recognize it here? she asks me. I do, actually. Oh, great, she perks up, now we're getting somewhere.
Yeah, we were here about an hour ago and very lost.
Now she's truly worried. Time for desperate measures. We're gonna have to knock on some door and ask if we can use the phone.
Peter and Patsy must be at their wits end and have most probably called the police.
There's a large building, like a monastery, light still shines, we see a big bell at the entrance. Mieke makes me pull it, she's such a coward - fallen off her pedestal for sure. A voice calls out: 'Qui est la, qui est la?' and we cry into the night: ' Please, we need help, we are lost.....'
Thank god, there is a click, a turning of keys, rummaging with the shutters ........... there's complete darkness!
They are not coming to help us, they are making sure we can't get in!
To be honest, the situation is starting to look pretty grim. Mieke suggests we try the next hamlet, I'm getting giggly - nerves, but try explaining that to a frantic sister. All I can think of is the drink we're going to be drinking sooner or later, laughing about the whole thing.
Let's find a telephone box and call collect, says Mieke. Honestly, we're in the middle of nowhere - what is she thinking of?
Hold on, a bright light ahead. We run towards it like desperadoes to a fata Morgana.
What we find could well qualify as a hallucination.
In the middle of a large, bare, dated, nicotine-stained kitchen, fluorescent light, sits a man alone, in a dirty white vest, trousers rolled up to the knees, shelling broad beans.
His eyes almost pop out of his head. This could be his wildest dream or worst nightmare. He stiffly stumbles to the door, spreading himself out, making it clear we are not to cross the threshold.
He's a strange kettle of fish. Sturdy, eighty-ish, still got his hair but not his teeth, save one, right in front of his mouth. His eyes are milky and unfocused, all over the place really. His chin is something else, I had flash backs of the Dandy, Desperate Dan revisited.
He spoke in strong dialect, communicating was difficult but somewhere along the line he decided to trust us, let us in and use his telephone, which was hidden in a cupboard.
Patsy and Peter weren't answering but we spoke to Jacques, who said he'd be there in 15 minutes.
The farmer, monsieur Mercier as we now knew him, requested, no, insisted we'd sit opposite him, refused our offer of help with the beans and seemed quite content to look up at us every now and then and chuckle.
Jacques arrived promptly, with Peter, who he'd found searching for us, by his side. Mieke and I so relieved, gushing, falling over each other trying to explain our trials, but Jacques was not amused nor sympathetic. Peter, seething, said: ' Shall I take her home or just leave her here?' to Desperate Dan. I mean, come on....
Turned out Jacques had already been in bed, Peter worried to distraction, Patsy stuck at home hyperventilating. Fair to say we were not welcomed back like the prodigal son - never mind a fatted calf.
Just two silly women who should have known better than to get into such a scrape, but after a drink or two our story was already becoming an anecdote, a tale to tell in years to come, how we fearlessly tackled the elements, wild boars, mad bats and stag beetles...... my brave sister and me,
babes in the wood.........