Grainne falls in the bushes
Grainne is convinced that she almost drowned when she came to visit me in Hamble last year. I’d promised her that I lived in the sunny south and that we could go out sailing on our yacht and spend the night on the Isle of Wight. Actually she told people that I tried to kill her. To be fair, it was blowing a hurricane (in her view). But then, one day in July, she sent me a message, she told me she was coming to visit again in August. That’s when I knew she had forgiven me. That’s because we are best friends.
“I promise, there will be no sailing.” I said as we talked excitedly on the phone about her impending trip.
“What about cycling? Are you up for that?” I asked by text. Grainne is very fit and healthy.
“Well, I’ve only cycled a bike that doesn’t move. Down at the gym. It’s been years since I’ve ridden a real bike. Just don’t mention ‘Dead Calm’. Aye, it’ll be good to do something new”.
Grainne arrived at the train station in Netley at 11.30am looking as fresh as a daisy despite having been up since 3am. I ran to meet her, a wee bit flustered as I was late. I’d been making scones for our cream tea.
We walked through Victoria Park to explore the shoreline of Southampton Water. I ponted left towards the Hamble and asked if she recognised it from last time.
“Don’t mention the BOAT!” She said, the colour draining from her face.
“We need to turn back Grainne or we’ll end up in Southampton.”
Grainne walks a lot. I don’t. We turned onto the road at Weston Sailing Club and back towards the ruins of Netley Abbey. I told her that the Abbey has been the source of inspiration for many romantic writers and poets. I told her how Dan and I sat in the same ruins mentally rebuilding the walls to construct our perfect home. We played posing games and took loads of photos. I felt creative and romantic.
Back home, we had our cream tea in the garden.
Dan left for work at 7am on Friday. I sat in the garden with a cup of tea. Grainne did not stir. Almost every day she posts a photo of sunrise over Derry City as she goes about her daily constitution. I thought she’d gone for a walk so I rapped the door at 7.30.
“Cup of green tea for you.”
She stretched and groaned on her temporary blow up bed.
Yoga class began at 10.30 and I knew better than to introduce the bike. We walked to class.
Yoga Jo put us through the poses, shaking her head as she said,
“Oh lass, look at the state of you.”
We saluted the sun so many times I finally realised why it’s always sunny here.
Back home, I brought out the bikes for a final inspection.
“Take both bikes for a wee trial, and then you can have whichever one you want.”
She chose the old bike.
It was a short ride along the road to reach the off road path.
“Watch out for the overhanging branch,” I called back as I ploughed downhill towards a very narrow path.
Grainne kept up easily, taking a swig of water when we stopped.
“I’m loving this.”
I smiled big on hearing the words. We approached the picture postcard village of Old Bursledon and stopped at the ‘Jolly Sailor’, the pub made famous in Howard’s Way, for lunch. Grilled king prawns, Butternut squash and red onion croquettes served with chips and 2 large glasses of iced water with a slice of lemon, perfect. Dan arrived on his bike. We offered him a drink but he declined and took some pictures of us together instead.
All three of us climbed the steep steps with the bikes and set off. We crossed the bridge at Swanwick where Dan went off on his ride. We turned right to cycle along the banks of the Hamble. I pointed out the mighty ‘She of Feock’. Grainne gave me a glower. When we reached the mouth of the river we turned along the pebble beach towards the Solent. Once again, Grainne was going like the clappers. The warm breeze at her back tricking her into relaxation.
“Grainne,” I called, “We have to cycle back.”
The breeze slowed us down and Grainne was gaining confidence. She was leading the way. She choose a narrow path between an old wall and some whins.
There she was, lying in a tangled heap among the whin bushes. I gave her a cursory glance to check the seriousness of the fall.
“Stay where you are.” I commanded as I groped in my fanny pack/waist-pack/bum-bag for my camera.
Grainne falls in the bushes
We were both in stitches as I helped her to a standing position. I crouched down to pick the whin needles from her bottom and thighs. A circle of blood formed on the white go-faster line of her bike shorts. I extracted an enormous bramble thorn. Dozens of fine dotted lines criss-crossed her arms and legs where the sharp spiny thorns caught her.
“I can’t believe you told me to stay where I was so you could get your CAMERA.”
She was in fine fettle and good to go.
We mounted the bikes and went towards Warsash. I stopped at the river bank beside a bright pink shed and made my way along the slimy and stony river’s edge towards the water.
“Come on Grainne, we’re taking the Pink Ferry to Hamble.”
I couldn’t possibly have made her cycle the long route home.
The truth is, I couldn’t wait to get THE picture uploaded to Facebook even if it meant breaking my no boat promise.
I write this with love from Hamble. x