Early May, we struggled to leave the house before later afternoon. Thus we did not get further than the canal.
At the start of the week, Phil cast about for an excuse to go out. With no shop requirements, he suggested going to look for goslings, snapped by a fellow photographer on the marina. Hoping they’d still be there we set off late Wednesday afternoon. We waited for a neighbour coming up the steps. “It’s so strange walking round (town) now, she remarked, “but I quite like it. Apart from missing the charity shops. I’ve got no summer clothes.” I sympathised as I also missed them. As she reached the top step, a slipper-wearing man with a mini dog rudely overtook us. The usual hippies milled about on the main road.
We paused at the chapel where cultivated purple aquilegia competed for space with yellow wild poppies and dandelions in the untended garden. At the marina, we spotted geese, pigeons, a wagtail, a pile of pallets and a small family squatting on the cobbles, but no goslings. Walking back to the park entrance, a man sat on the cinema steps. Still talking into his phone, he abruptly stood and strode in our direction necessitating a sudden dodge.
In the memorial gardens, displaced pub-goers socialised on benches while in the park, children weaved about on bikes. The ‘wild flower’ patch was a riot of dandelions. On the less-trod playing field, they sprouted alongside daisies, heedless of dogs chasing balls.
Exiting onto the towpath, signs redolent of Royston Vasey proclaimed ‘local use only’. Fish swam beneath bright ripples in the canal, but still no sign of goslings. Turning towards Mayroyd, we climbed onto the lock, avoiding another small family. A layer of scum and fallen blossom coated the water, blocking any view of wild life. The way ahead seemed rather busy. We retreated and stayed on the left side hoping to avoid busier stretches, taking the steps up to Palace House Road. Peeking over the wall down onto the canal at Hebble End, there were still no pesky goslings!
Friday (VE Day), jolly laughter, bursts of terrible music and milling about implied people on the street below were actually having a party. On our street, neighbours of the adjacent terrace socialised in their own self-created ‘bubble’. Mr. Fast n Furious raced up and parked in the middle of the thoroughfare for no apparent reason, stood there a few minutes with engine idling, then reversed out with equal speed.
We gave all a wide berth and walked through clouds of floating dandelion seeds and upon the fading chalk art, to the end of the street, giggling at pathetic bunting in ‘Brexit Close’. We took The Buttress down to the Packhorse Bridge, and into the square where a solitary figured occupied a bench. I discovered later that an anti-lockdown demo, consisting of 8 sociopathic hippies had taken place. Getting a few errands, we popped in the fancy wine shop to smirk at the exorbitant prices and dance to Sister Sledge and purchased the fabled goat meat from the very local butchers.
We wandered towards Holme Street where more half-hearted bunting adorned the school. The smoky wood smell of the people’s pizza van was a big draw, but competed with the stink of draw towards the aqueduct.
We crossed to the other side of the lock again, evading the idiotic bank holiday smokers and drinkers, and enjoying a quiet patch of sunlight until the coast cleared. Continuing past Hebble End, the angry white geese noisily defended their territory against half-breed ducks. One, a mix of mallard and runner duck, swam in an ungainly fashion, struggling to keep its long neck up . At the next exit point, we walked down a dirt track housing half-demolished vans, to the river and spotted a wagtail hopping from rock to rock.
Around the corner, we hailed a couple of friends in their garden, chatting safely from the other side of the wall. He had been furloughed and she’d sensibly given up work as a self-employed painter for the duration, enjoying the rest. That made at least two other people liking the slower pace of life! By coincidence, she had painted the red windows reflected in the canal waters that I had shot a couple of days before (and subject of the next Monday Morning Haiga).
On Spring Bank holiday Monday, we set off slightly earlier hoping to find lunch in town. Heaving with day-trippers, carparks and bins overflowed, people queued for café take-a-ways, and benches outside the pub were fully occupied (although still not offering take-outs themselves). It appeared as if the square had become a makeshift food court. In search of pies, we found the bakers shut. The local convenience stores supplied meagre pickings. We waited ages while a family who looked like they’d already eaten all the pies, hovered round the instant food section. The staff complained about the tourists “There are at least 300 people in the square”, one of them exaggerated. Navigating the busy street, almost mowed down by a motorbike, we crossed over to the park to find a suitable patch of grass amidst the small groups populating the green spaces, in front of the shut café. I said they could at least be selling ice cream.
We enjoyed a long overdue picnic lunch in the warm sunshine, realising it was the first time since early March we had bought ‘lunch out’. Discussing the recent Cummings farrago, we agreed the cat was out of the bag now. Although physical distancing was not being totally ignored, friendship groups had definitely formed. I learnt the art beloved of Daily Mail photographers, misleading the viewer into thinking small clumps of people were actually one seething mass. An infamous local character staggered from one group to another, wearing a mask round his chin. Phil suggested his keyworker probably put a stack in his house to protect the rest of us!
After eating, we walked along the canal to Mytholmroyd. Delicate white flowers and common orchids resembling bottle brushes swayed gently at the water’s edge, dwarfed by Margarites.
At the boundary, more Margarites grew in hard gravel also home to a smattering of clover and trefoil. We crossed the main road to the ancient hamlet of Hawksclough and walked home via the Sustrans cycle path. As the habitat changed, so did the flora. Bright kingcups dazzled beside grey granite while fading wild garlic and miniscule blooms stretched upwards in the shade of riverside trees.
I popped in the co-op while Phil waited outside. The halfwit serving me spoke into his headset: “we appear to have a stalker at the window.“ I turned round to see Phil doing funny faces behind my back!