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Below Bill Ayling shares with you some of the things that come to mind as he walks his dog Fudge around Purley on Thames

January 2017

A New Year

So this is 2017. Many people, myself included, hope that it will be a better year than the last, this is in my mind as I had a spell in the Cardiac Unit at the Royal Berks Hospital. This was followed by three weeks suffering from the worst dose of flu I’ve ever known, and a racking cough. These illnesses prevented us from making our regular Christmas visit to Arundel and unable to deliver presents to our many great nieces and nephews. We still waiting to make that visit, but, fingers crossed, if the weather holds we shall manage to see our relatives before my birthday in February. I do hope that this will be a much better year for everybody, the only thing you can say about 2016 is that we survived!

The Cardiac Unit

I must write about the wonderful treatment I was given by the nursing staff of the Cardiac Unit at the RBH. It is difficult to find words to describe, how very friendly the nurses were in the two wards in which I was a patient, or describe the great care they took of me. To say “thank you” is not enough. I couldn’t have shown more kindness if I were a prince in a palace. At the slightest rise on the monitor, to which I was connected with an incredible array of wires, they would be at my bedside to see if everything was all right.  I can say is “Bless you all! ”

The Heron

Waiting to see the Doctor in the Boathouse Surgery in Pangbourne recently, one of many visits, I was sitting in a chair facing the river. I was amazed to see a heron flap down and perch itself comfortably on a railing outside the window. Ignoring my goggling presence, he preened himself with his long, yellow beak, at the same time keeping a bright eye open for any fish foolish enough to swim into his ken (Keats).  It gave me the opportunity for a few minutes, to make a close study of the bird, where the white feathers blended with the grey, and the strange yellow and orange colours of his long beak.

Years ago, I recall telling a fisherman of the kingfishers and herons I’d seen on the river, but he wasn’t at all interested. He referred to them “as robbers”. By this I assume he thought the fish were a nuisance and that the river was just for his, and other fishermen’s pleasure. The fact that the birds need the fish to survive was an incidental matter. The river, with its fish, were just for his and fellow anglers pleasure.

Wendy of the Tiny House

Wendy, who used to live in the tiny brick house, which was located next to the Social Club in Wintringham Way, was anti-fishermen. I’m sure it was not because of the nature of their pursuit, but because, when they had finished their mid-day, or any snack, would shove the wrappings of their food deep into the hawthorn bushes, which line the river bank. At least this was Wendy’s prejudiced view. She objected to their shoving paper bags etc. into the bushes, because, elderly lady that she was, she used to absolutely scour the riverbank for litter. She made a very thorough job of it. Morning and evening, she would prowl the river bank and collect any rubbish which had been dumped.  The sandwich paper and things pushed into the prickly bushes, made her very cross, for they were very awkward for her to remove, and she was always blaming the fishermen for not taking their rubbish home with them.

Wendy, dear soul, although some thought her rather nosy and bossy, to Eileen and I, when we first moved into Purley, was a helpful friend and a walking companion with an incredible amount of local knowledge. We deeply missed her when she moved away to, I believe, Western Super Mare. Now it is Eileen and I (especially Eileen) who walks the river bank, with Fudge gathering, the litter which thoughtless people leave on the river bank. Although, now, there doesn’t appear to be as many fishermen leaving litter…

Strangely enough, after writing the above paragraph, we took our afternoon walk, and saw two young fishermen busy at their piscatorial pursuit. At the same time, Faith and Lance, with baby George strapped to his chest. Also with them was Dyson their setter. Suddenly Dyson stopped dead in his tracks and wouldn’t move. The reason was he had seen the fishermen haul an enormous pike out of the river by the first island. They tossed it back of course, and Dyson resumed his walk. It was Eileen who told me this, because at the time, I was looking at a Mandarin duck perched on a branch above the river, and very lovely it looked to!

The Mapledurham Garden

Eileen and I have been tending a small circular garden on the island at Mapledurham Lock. It was there that I had the nasty fall which, on reflection, was probably the first warning of my heart problems. When dear George Fielder was the lock keeper, the flowers on this patch were a blaze of colour throughout the summer months, and no help was needed. Danny, the current excellent lock-keeper, was speaking to me about “grassing over” the circular plot, he now has three locks to look after and couldn’t spare the time to tend the gardens at Mapledurham Lock. The patch seemed quite small, from the footpath, and I offered to take it over on behalf of the Parish Council. When I eventually crossed over to the island and looked closer, I was amazed to see what a large area was involved.

The Parish Council very kindly refund the money I spent on plants, at least some of it. Generally I order too many plants for my own garden and the remainder I take up to the Lock garden and put them in this circular patch, free of charge!

In October, last year, I went into Collins of Pangbourne, recommend to me by a dear friend, Gilly, and bought a bargain sack of daffodil bulbs for the lock garden. This was before my health problems. Due to pain, I was unable to make the journey to the lock to plant the daffodils. They remained in their sack outside the back door. When I retuned from hospital, I was too ill to take them up to the Lock, but a friend stepped in to help. Jim Lemin, who was kept advised of my illness, very kindly took them to the lock and planted them. In the Spring, among the little, green trees kindly donated by Margaret, when the daffodils are blooming, “tossing their heads in sprightly dance”, it is to Jim, we have to thank for a wonderful display of colour.

Bill Ayling