‘In the Midst of Life…’
(alternate title)‘Do Ghosts Eat Custard Creams?
The other day we wet for a walk through a local nature reserve. The sun broke through the clouds for a few precious hours and we ambled around eating wild raspberries and throwing grass seed at each other. Dragonflies darted, I sulked for a bit because the grass seed got stuck in my hair, it was your average family trek around the countryside. It was fun mostly and as always, I found it a welcome change from being trapped indoors.
Everything seemed alive and literally buzzing, bees, hoverflies and butterflies floated around the Cow Parsley and birds flitted around the upper branches of the trees – most likely cursing us for being such a noisy bunch.
As we walked along, probably singing about going on bear hunts, I came across something that looked really peculiar. The rabble ran ahead of me and I paused for a minute or so to take a closer look.
Yep, it really was a double pack of Custard Creams cellotaped to a tree down by the river’s edge. I’m unashamedly nosey, why would anyone in their right mind do that? I had to find out. So, I jumped down onto the banking and wandered over. Then I saw the dead roses tied to another branch. By this point I was seriously wondering if I’d come across some weird pagan custom that involved sacrificing biscuits to river gods.
Next I spotted two small neat looking envelopes in a plastic sealed bag, also taped to the same tree. A little note on the front of the bag said,
‘To my little brother and Sno, we miss you both so very much’
Each card had one name on it, they were obviously left for these two people named on the note. It really, really makes you wonder what stories unfold around us while we bumble along through life oblivious.
Judging by the state of the cellotape, the faded, unopened packet of biscuits and the very dead roses, plus the unopened envelopes – they’d been there for a long time.
I could hear our rowdy kids yelling and laughing in the distance as I stood there. No way would my curiosity let me open those envelopes even though I suspected they’d never be opened anyway. They weren’t addressed to me and I had no right to open them. The biscuits would no doubt be washed away if the river flooded and would probably end up as fish food. Eventually the roses would dessicate and crumble. But…. in the mind of whoever left them, the Custard Creams would be eaten and the cards read and treasured by the little brother and Sno. Why else would they have been left? It was a beautiful, simple gesture and I’m not embarrassed to say, it gave me a lump in my throat.
I presume they all spent hours fishing down there maybe, eating biscuits I’m guessing. This was a place that was special to them, away from the well walked paths, hidden mostly by over hanging trees.
I’d only been a minute or two, but I knew I needed to catch up with my lot before they wondered where I’d got to. I left everything as it was, untouched. I am a sentimental fool, always have been, prone to thinking things that don’t always make absolute sense – so as I left I couldn’t help but imagine two ghosts sat there in the twilight of a balmy summer’s day, eating ghostly biscuits with half see through fingers, dropping crumbs in the mud and reading their cards.
I scrambled back up to the path, through nettles and headed away from what I now recognised as a shrine to two people, lost for reasons I shall never find out. Back towards my family, my noisy, bickering, giggling, frustrating but ultimately full of life, reason for living.
Just as I spotted the kids in the distance I looked to my left, and there perched on a branch over the river was a Kingfisher. Stock still, it sat there, bright electric blue wings and an orange tummy, poised and ready to catch an unseen fish in the shallows. Whenever I’ve seen them before they’ve always flown away almost instantly. It’s like they dart in one swift rush of energy, wings moving so quickly you can barely see them, like a ball of blue thrown through the air. Not this one. It just sat there and I swear it knew I was watching it from just a few feet away. Eventually, bored of being stared at, it moved on.
I finally caught up and babbled on about Kingfishers to the kids and in a slightly more hushed tone about riverside shrines to Horace. The sun still shone, the bees still buzzed, the kids still hassled us for packets of crisps and drinks. We were/are in the midst and muddle of life, which is more than can be said for someone’s lost little brother and his friend Sno.
Even now, as I type, it seems slightly unnerving to think that just a short distance away, hidden from sight, away from the roads and life, there’s a riverbank where there’s ghosts and yes, I think they eat Custard Creams.