Of those places I have spent time, one of the most
enchanted was a deserted house on the borders between England and Wales.
I was most likely suffering an insanity, because I had decided to walk
from one end of Offa's Dyke to the other. An enterprise a saner
person might have prepared for. I had a blanket in a black plastic
bag and I had cashed an unemployment check which was fat with that
allowance they once gave the workless to pass along to landlords.
The house, which was stone and roofless, lay almost hidden from the path
by woodland. I reached it in the late evening, ate a loaf of bread
and drank from a stream that wasn't quite healthy.
the morning I was sick for a while and there was a Welsh rain, which I
will define as less than a potato rain more then a heavy mist. I
used the plastic bag to keep dry, and I watched the path. The
combination of physical upset and chill were evident on my personality
because I cursed both my folly and my lot in a most pathetic manner.
In those days Offa's Dyke was unruly to the extent that it had not been
claimed by the great and the good. It was early in that time when
the eccentric were in the process of securing the necessary
funding for useful things like stiles and markers and literature.
And it was one such eccentric that I saw tromping
through the wet along the path carrying a large wooden post. My
usual habit would have been to hide, but circumstances combined. He
had that air of amateur about him, that enthusiasm that has been called
friendly. He had the new hiking boots, the anorak and a fine
hat. As well, from the way he studied his map and the terrain, I
guessed he was lost.
I forget his name, but as well as that unwieldy
post, he had cigarettes, a flask
of whiskey, and a generous nature that turned a rainy day in a roofless house from one of need into
one of plenty.