Approaching St. Cross Hospital
On Sunday afternoon, we went for our customary walk, this time a circular route starting at the Hockley Viaduct, making a slight detour to St. Cross Hospital. The weather was bright, but the relentless wet weather in recent weeks has flooded the water-meadows alongside the Itchen, and rendered some normally easily-traversed fields of livestock into swamps of trampled dung and mud. Wellingtons are de rigueur, but not terribly grippy when trying to walk across a wet plank or log crossing a swollen ditch.
Trudging through patches of deep, churned mud is about as tiring as walking along a shingle beach, and it was good to get back to the car, just as the light began to fail. At which point, I discovered I'd somehow dropped my keys. Back out there among the shell-holes and barbed wire of No Man's Land. Oh, dear. We split up and searched a couple of likely spots, where I'd either nearly taken a tumble or stopped to use my camera, but it was starting to get dark, and we found nothing.
Which left us with the problem of getting back to Southampton from Winchester without a car. The neighbours we called were all out. Our daughter is still at home on vacation, but doesn't drive. I was at the point of calling the RAC when a friendly-looking man walked over – he and his wife had just returned from a similar excursion to their car, parked nearby – and asked what the problem was. He then offered to drive us home, despite living in Chandler's Ford, midway between Winchester and Southampton. We were then able to drive back to the Viaduct in my partner's car, and retrieve the Scenic with the spare key. You can imagine how grateful we were for this spontaneous, unsolicited act of kindness.
St. Catherine's Hill from the water-meadows
Now, I've already described my slightly spooky ability to find lost things (Dude, Where's My Boot Button?). After a restless night, repeatedly reconstructing and re-imagining our route, with its stops and starts, its slips and stumbles, its diversions and detours, I headed over to the Viaduct, and repeated the walk in reverse. To cut to the chase, after about 45 minutes I found the keys, lying in the grass next to an old brick-built sluice in a water-meadow we'd used to negotiate a particularly scummy puddle near a gate. Jumping down must have dislodged them from my coat pocket, which I'd failed to zip up.
So, a lesson learned, and a debt incurred. Next time I see a stranger urgently in need of help – a lift, perhaps, or a bit of cash, whatever it is – I'll try to remember to behave like the Good Chandlers-Fordian, and not pass by on the other side. I must also remember to zip up my coat pockets.