The air is filled with grey clouds spliced together by the strong
wind. In the distance are the high hills.
I walk through the village along a ribbon of tarmac. I turn right
and walk towards Hayes Barton.
For those not familiar with the area, Hayes Barton is where Sir Walter Raleigh was
He was the man who was imported potatoes and tobacco into Britain; the man who rather fetchingly threw his cloak onto
a puddle so that Elizabeth the First could walk across with dry feet.
In fact, if I look behind me, I can see a painting of the scene
coloured upon a wooden board and swinging in the wind.
I wander past the rows of new houses, tucked out of sight behind the
high walls that guard the old heart of the small village.
I smile, because I know I will soon be in the hills, weaving through
the trees and the fields; walking along the tracks, criss-crossing the huge expanse of
countryside that spreads ninety miles towards Bristol.
My mind is becoming young again.
The dim glow of radiation from the computer screen is fading and my
electronic glory is being replaced with the fresh wind and clean air.
Coming towards me are four people. They're not locals. I know that
even though I only live in the village for a few months at a time. You never get four
locals walking together; sometimes you may get a couple, or maybe even a family, but
In the High Street (which is a misnomer if ever I heard one) you can
walk together with other people but stray from there and you walk alone. That's the deal.
The group think green wellies disguise them, but they don't.
I nod at them.
That's another part of the deal of living in a village. You have to
nod at people for a few years until you get to know them. Then you have the right to talk
to them about the weather. Then, only then, you may be trusted with a few pieces of
It will all be monitored with more care than lies disseminated by MI5;
and any that you talk about, without a doubt, will be traced back to you. If you want to
know whether they approve of the indiscriminate spread of knowledge, I really don't know -
I'll let you know when I get there.
The members of the group smirk knowingly. They think I'm a thick
country boy. They think they can smirk at each other and I haven't got a clue what's going
on. They probably think that I think London is 'somewherez past Zomerzet.'
They probably wouldn't believe me if I told them that within four
hundred metres of where we stand there are teachers, business people, entrepreneurs,
photographers. They would, however, believe me if I pointed to the adjacent farm and told
them, 'I workz there, I doez'.
I smile back.
"Excuse me mate," one of the lads says.
There are two lads, and two girls.
I stop and stand about five feet away from their London gathering.
"Do you know when the pub's open?" he asks, referring to the
public house decorated with the Sir Walter Raleigh and Elizabeth scene.
The others watch me with interest.
I have to admit, I do look a state, but there you go.
"What's the time?" I ask, after foolishly checking to see if
I've got a watch on; thus furthering my image as a Devon version of Peter the Goat Herder.
"Four o'clock," he replies.
"It should be open," I say, "It's normally open all day
They look at each other with amusement.
"Well, the door's locked," the lad says rather emphatically.
"And the lights aren't on," he adds, to reinforce his argument.
I have to admit, it is rather convincing.
"Well, listen mate," I say, now in Devon-Cockney mode,
determined to permanently change the way they perceive simple country folk.
"Just go and knock on the door and ask the landlord when he's
"Thanks," the two lads say, and they walk off in their
I turn around and see that they are all laughing. Then I realise it's
Friday, not Saturday.
I better go and see what's going on with my tractor.
By Carl Appleby.
- Travel Notes Directory.
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