Wandering westward on the last evening of June, there was a moment when he seemed almost present. Perhaps it was the light of the evening sun casting shadows that might have been his.
He will always remain associated with summer nights here, walking down the road as darkness fell. This far south in England, the price of longer, lighter days in the winter is summer evenings when darkness falls much earlier than it does further north. It is fully dark by ten o’clock, even on the longest days, so his walks would never have been late. In memory, he is a silhouette against the dying light of the evening sky. Wearing his distinctive flat cap, the glow of a cigarette would have indicated his progress along our road to anyone who might have glanced out of their window.
A gentle, quiet, softly-spoken man, he and his family lived in one of the row of six council houses, of which ours was the last one before the open fields. Beyond our house, the road becomes much narrower as it goes towards the windmill. Soon after the windmill, there comes the very steep Stembridge hill. Like most of us, he would not have walked much further than the windmill before he would have decided to turn back. After working hard all day, walking down a hill with a 25% gradient, only to have to turn at the foot of the hill and walk back up it, would have seemed a foolish thing to do.
There was a contentment in watching he and his Jack Russell dog passing by, sometimes, it was as though time had stopped. It was as though that this single moment said that all was well with our little bit of the world. There was a feeling that if a man could go for a walk with his terrier in the shadows of a warm summer’s night, then, no matter what we saw on the television news, there was peace where we lived.
In his commitment to live in the present moment, to contentedly amble down our road each evening of summertime, there was a sense of tranquility. My Grandad, who would have sat on at the table after his evening meal, sipping his tea and staring out of the kitchen window into the middle distance, would have recognized such contentment. Perhaps it was a generational thing, perhaps after the times through which they had lived, quietness and peace were moments to be treasured. Perhaps it is something now lost.