His whereabouts were uncertain, it seemed important to call at the house. The lane had fresh stones, or at least it seemed so, perhaps it was just the summer dryness that had created an under wheel firmness. The long six bar galvanised gate was padlocked, very firmly. Near his front door, a line of clothes blew in the June breeze. If there was washing on the line, he must be well and he could not be far away. His car was not to be seen, but that was not conclusive evidence he was not around.
The padlock presented no barrier to entry, climbing the gate was a simple matter. There would have been companions in more youthful times who would have vaulted it. Only in reaching the top of the gate did the thought occur that the entrance was on falling ground; that the padlock end of the long gate was significantly further from the tarmac than the hinge end. No matter. Bringing the left leg over the top, I leaped to the ground, eighty kilograms deadweight landing flat-footed on the floor with the elegance of a potato sack. The effect of the jump was strange – there was a feeling of having been punched in the nose.
The man was not to be found and the second scaling of the gate was at the upper end, with a climb down the other side; no more jumping.
Garrison Keillor once wrote of ‘a day with Clarence Bunsen’ in his ‘Tales from Lake Wobegon’. Bunsen, a fifty-five year old motor dealer is out walking and decides on a rash impulse to climb a tree, only when Bunsen has climbed the tree do children from the neighbourhood appear. He sits unmoving in the tree, fearful, ‘what if they look up here, see a fifty-five-year-old man sitting in the tree?’ he asks himself. Bunsen’s youthful impulse, as silly as leaping from the top of a six bar gate.
The hedgerows assumed a mocking tone as they passed along the road on the journey from the man’s yard; great purple foxgloves and white cow parsley dominating the long grass of the verges. In the fields, the buttercups, the commonplace colour of childhood years, had blanketed the country around, their full, deep yellow offset by the deep greens around them. The flowers seemed to say, ‘you have grown older, we have never changed’. The day will come when gate climbing will have ceased and the colours will still remain.
Next time I shall just phone the man, one reaches an age of accepting that things are not what they once were.