“We need a new hedge-trimmer, do you use one?” enquired Louis.
I told him that I did. He then wanted to know, what make, what size and where did I get it? I gave him chapter and verse but he was a bit flummoxed by B and Q. Where are they, he wondered. When I told him, Lewes Road Brighton, he simply said, “Oh”
Now ‘Oh’, depending on inflexion, can carry a variety of meanings. This particular ‘Oh’, with a dropping cadence, carried an air of resignation. For Louis, former world traveller for both business and pleasure, a battle with the traffic into Brighton, in his now advanced years, was too daunting to contemplate. Sensing his disappointment I offered to take him. He didn’t need asking twice.
When could we go he wanted to know. How about Wednesday, I suggested, it’s ten per cent off for pensioners day. Louis’ eyes lit up, the prospects were growing rosier by the minute.
The following Wednesday, Louis and Nelida, at first over-awed by the size of the superstore gradually navigated their way to the Garden section. The hedge-trimmers required careful assessment, Size, weight, wattage, cable length and doubtless a mental calculation of what the ten per cent reduction represented, all came into Louis’ lengthy and critical analysis. No such hesitation from Nelida, a kid let loose in a sweetie shop, she was piling cartons of
bone-meal, sulphate of ammonia and John Innes into a groaning trolley without thought of the cost, ten percent discount notwithstanding.
The car loaded, we set off for home, though the Brighton traffic back along Lewes Road, climb up Coldean Lane to Old Boat Corner and across the top of the Downs.
As we drew near to the Beacon, on the bridleway, on the ridge of the Downs to the east, a figure on horseback, a dark outline against the midday sky, was making his way, at a trot, up the slight incline.
I knew of Louis’ passion for horse riding. He had told me of the stables at Hanslope Park, where he was stationed in the nineteen forties and where he had the opportunities to ride. This pursuit had continued through the years and even more recently, escaping the British winter, in South America where he divided his time between putting his CX5RV call on air and saddling up the horse provided by his brother–in-law.
I glanced across at Louis and sure enough his gaze was concentrated on the same sight that had captured my attention.
By this time, the rider had broken into a canter and reaching the crest of the rise to where the bridleway took a downward slope, the horse and rider set off like the wind.
From the passenger seat I heard Louis murmur, "Lucky Devil”.
I made no comment to break the spell of his daydream.
He was miles away, ------- about seven thousand; galloping across the hills in Uruguay.