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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

November 2018

Season of Mists and Fruitfulness

The poet was right about the mists and the fruitfulness, unfortunately my grape vine was too fruitful and the weight of the fruit caused one creeper to break away from its supporting ties. There were dozens of bunches of black grapes clinging onto it, which made it too heavy for me to lift and re-tie. Even with Eileen’s help it was impossible to lift it. All I could do was to find my saw and cut through the branch. When I had it on the ground I cut away the smaller creepers bearing the grapes with my secateurs. Regretfully the grapes were not ripe enough to eat, so into the green bin went a considerable amount of autumn fruit.


Last year I had a gigantic sunflower growing from an oak tub in front of the house, this year I don’t even have an oak tub and the sunflower was only about eighteen inches high. Old age and damp have caused the oak tub to split open and spill the earth out. It was a mess on the path. I tried to put the tub together, but this resulted in even more earth spilling out. Eileen left me in no doubt that I was not allowed to leave the front of the house in such disarray. The remaining sunflower was sad and forlorn when placed on the compost heap. The slats from the oak tub were rotten with damp, so wouldn’t burn. They joined the unripe grapes in the green bin.


Even the apples this year have been a disappointment. Due to the drought in the summer the fruit did not grow very large, although it was abundant. Unfortunately it did not ripen before the apples fell to the ground where it became bruised and inedible. It was the same with the pears. Even the runner beans have proved a disaster (I am very grateful to Margaret for the large bag of beans from her allotment). This year beans, apples, and pears have finished up in my green bin. The £50 annual charge which the council now require for emptying the green bins is money well spent!

Swimming in the river

It was a cold and frosty morning. The grass crackled beneath the four wheels of my rollator as we returned from our Sunday stroll to the lock. I was looking forward to getting home and having a hot cup of coffee – the café at the lock had been closed. We had reached the sandy dip opposite the first island when I heard Eileen say “I don’t believe it!” as she quickly slipped the lead on Fudge. Not knowing what had caused this exclamation I rolled up to the edge of the river bank and looked down at an amazing sight.

There were probably half a dozen young boys, most stripped down to their underpants watching their friends splashing about in the river. Two or three of them were up to their waists in the water urging the others to join them. I heard one say that it wasn’t too cold, as another splashed his friends with copious quantities of water. One boy, who fortunately still wore his trousers, was stripped to the waist.  He was standing on the sandy bank undecided whether to resume dressing or to remove his remaining garment. He was thoroughly splashed by his wallowing friends.

All of the boys, probably aged about fourteen, were uttering shrill cries of delight, or was it pain? They seemed to be completely oblivious of the cold, and were thoroughly enjoying themselves.

“Home!” I croaked to Eileen through my scarf, and adjusted my thick gloves.

“Ought we not to warn them?” she replied, obviously fascinated by the sight. “They’ll catch their death of cold,” she added.

“So will we,” I told her, wheeling my rollator homeward bound.

The hot coffee, brewed by Eileen, was delicious…

Fudge in sickness and in health

Fudge, I’m delighted to say, is much better. When I prepare her food she is jumping up and down with impatience, giving urgent “I am waiting! “barks.

When one considers how poorly she was, it is marvellous to see how she is enjoying her food – even licking the platter clean – and also eager to go for her walks.  One strange thing, she now insists upon going out of the side gate in the mornings instead of the back gate. Once out, by the simple expedient of stopping and putting out all four paws, she decides which way she of tugging or pulling make her change her mind, so, it is better to give in!

She still has a desire to jump in the river at the first opportunity. Unfortunately after her immersion she arrives home soaking wet and it is my thankless task to dry her off. Eileen will call out and I grab one of Fudge’s towels and rub her tummy (Fudge’s not Eileen’s). She will helpfully put her front legs up on the garden seat and allow me rub vigorously to ensure that she is dry. Then she has her breakfast!

Singing for Fun

On Thursday afternoons in St Mary’s church hall a group of elderly people meet for a sing song. It is great fun. Barry conducts and plays the piano. All sing along from a prepared song sheet of well-known songs. It is incredible to watch and listen to these elderly people singing and obviously enjoying themselves. For many it is the one day of the week they look forward to.

Some arrive in their wheel chairs, many on their rollators, but once inside the large hall everybody relaxes and enjoys themselves. Usually there are over sixty in numbers and most are of similar age. Phyl celebrated her ninety ninth birthday the other week, she even offered to go and fetch me a cup of tea!

After an hour of energetic singing, and impromptu dancing from Mary, they have a break for a cup of tea, cakes and sandwiches. The afternoon is completed with songs from Dave, Barbara and Ron with his guitar, followed by “the walk!” when everybody, including the wheelchair-bound, circle the floor singing various popular songs.

If you feel lonely, or need something to do on a Thursday afternoon, don’t hesitate- come along to St Mary’s Church. Sandy and Ina will make you, as they did me, feel very welcome.  It is a wonderful way of spending an afternoon, with very friendly people and doesn’t cost you a penny!

Bill Ayling