I will be the first to admit that I was born with the proverbial ‘silver spoon’ in my mouth.
I’m not a snob though. I know that a lot of people believe that if you are rich, have a well-paying job in a good company then you must be a bit snobbish.
I just think of myself as extremely lucky to be born into the family I was, and really, I had no say whatsoever about which mother and father I would belong to.
I enjoy being well paid, although I work long hours, and I prefer quality food to cheap meals, oh yes and I do like my luxuries as in my car, my home and my clothes. But I do not employ anyone to do jobs that I am quite capable of doing myself! Am I a snob? I guess I am in some ways.
But on the other hand, I donate to a lot of charities, would never walk past somebody asking for money and love nothing more than hiking through the woods, when I could, in all honesty, be lying next to an aqua blue pool, in the latest bikini, sipping a Pina Colada! But don’t get me wrong, when I go away to a remote location, peaceful and re-energising, I would think I was roughing it by ‘glamping, not camping’!
Most of my friends are like minded, because we all grew up together, went to the same private school, then on to university and remained friends.
I say ‘most of my friends’ because there are always the exceptions. One of my closest friends doesn’t even own a car – her choice because of the carbon footprint. AND because she has such a social conscience, as in not believing in sprays of any kind to damage the ozone layer, grows all of her own vegies and makes her own clothes or buys them from a charity shop. Consequently, a lot of her meals comprise of vegetable soups and homemade bread (a bit like a heavy stone to pick up…) and her clothes look like, well let’s be honest here, something the cat or dog could sleep on!
But I am so fond of Diedre and think she is amazing for sticking to her guns about everything. She makes her own mind up about things.
I do have to pull some of my peers into line now and then about the way they treat others, like sometimes in a restaurant when they tell the waitress that their glass is dirty, but in a very unfriendly, rude and dare I say it ‘snobbish’ way.
“Sam, you were rude to that young girl. How about saying your glass has a mark on it, and could you kindly bring me a clean one, when you have time! Not “This glass is filthy; I need a new one.”
Of course, Sam would ignore me and never learnt from my little lessons.
Last week when I was at the pub with some friends, I was quite annoyed by the tone of our conversation at times, especially when someone found it thoughtless that while paying for his petrol (for his BMW no less) the person in front of him emptied out a small purse and began to count all the loose change that had rolled all over the counter.
“I mean, why can’t he pay with a card? I was in a hurry! AND he couldn’t count!”.
I was riled up “Steven, some people don’t have a credit card. They save up to be able to pay for their petrol. Not everyone has money, like us. You really make me angry sometimes. And don’t tell me - the poor man didn’t have a BMW waiting at the bowser.
“It was a rust bucket as I knew it would be.” Steven added.
“Well, I’ve had two drinks so I’m going home to bed. Night all” and I wandered off.
I did love my friends but sometimes we had such different outlooks on life and people. ‘Still’ I thought ‘If we were all the same it would be rather boring, and who would choose which type we should all be like?”
I decided that I needed to get away from everything and everyone and re-set, so went home to look at my maps of walking paths and decide where I was off to at the weekend.
Over the years I had marched along a lot of paths and through many wooded areas. I loved the chance to be on my own with just my thoughts. But there were a couple of places I hadn’t been to so I decided for a change I would try one of them.
I always went by myself because that was the idea. I would walk briskly at times, then slow down when I saw something interesting , maybe take a photo, or even open my backpack and have something to eat.
I just relished the peace and quiet and at times the coolness of the woods. It was as if the battery that kept me ticking was getting recharged as I walked.
After about half an hour I could physically feel my breathing slowing down and my shoulders relaxing.
The woods were getting much denser as I walked along the thin pathway. It seemed to be dropping a few degrees in temperature because of the thick canopy keeping out the sunlight.
I took my scarf out of my backpack and put it around my neck - If my neck was warm and my feet were dry, then I didn’t feel too chilly.
The trees were beautiful. Some of the smooth trunks looked almost translucent and were soft to touch. The slight breeze meandering through the thickness of growth caused the leaves to dance on the branches. A sound of nuts and dead bits of wood hitting the ground reverberated through the cool air, but that was all that could be heard.
I didn’t feel even the slightest bit nervous about getting lost here, the map had shown that from one end of the hike to the other, was on the path. It deviated up hills and across the river at one point, but that was fine.
Some little cheeky birds were chattering on low lying branches, their chirps high pitched and noisy. As I passed by, they flew off quickly in different directions. And then it was once again silent.
I loved the tranquillity and how it allowed me to think., and the fresh cool air I was breathing in, seemed to clear my mind.
I did direct my thoughts towards work once or twice and projects that needed to be finished, people who had to be contacted and all the interviews I would be conducting next week, but I decided that work was off limits on this walk. I concentrated on the renovations I was about to start on my house and just how good it would look when it was finished. Then I thought about just how fortunate I was to be able to afford to do my house up.
“I am so hungry with all this walking and fresh air” I said aloud, sitting on a fallen log and opening my bag up.
I had made some sandwiches so tucked into one of them, with gusto! ‘It’s amazing how a simple cheese sandwich tastes so delicious when you’re really hungry’ I thought to myself eating a second one. I washed them down with water from my bottle and feeling quite satisfied, continued to sit, looking around me at the lush bushes, with their thick, dark green leaves.
I actually could have made myself comfortable and had a little sleep – I felt weary, but knew that as soon as I started walking, I would wake up.
After I’d packed my bag and checked the map, I started off again – and true enough felt quite energised from the food.
I was deep in thought when suddenly a small brown squirrel ran in front of me, scaring me. “Ahh” I yelled out, not knowing what it was at first, but as it clambered nimbly up a tree to the side of me, I could see its long brushy tail. It had something in one of its paws, probably a nut of some kind. ‘That made my heart beat fast and the stress levels go back up!’ I laughed to myself.
To my left and deeper into the woods I could just make out a tent, dark grey and quite big, and I could hear laughter, children’s, with a very young one squealing in delight.
I remembered that when I was a little girl in school, one of the children in my class would go camping for her holidays. She used to tell us that at night time in her tent, she and her sister had a torch each and would shine it on different objects to see what shapes it made. Sometimes they got really scared and had to get into just one sleeping bag together to get to sleep. They never wanted to call out to their parents because they would get angry with them and take the torches away.
I used to think that it would be a lot of fun to go ‘real’ camping but I wouldn’t like parents who got cross over something simple. But then I thought that when I went on holidays with my parents and we were eating in a restaurant, if I didn’t sit up straight or spilled my glass of juice, they would get cross, so a bit the same really.
I could hear a stream of water trickling, a bit like the water fountain in my neighbour’s front garden. I looked on the map. It wasn’t very far away at all. It was a small stream and when I reached it I stood on the edge and looked down - the water was crystal clear with smooth rocks, large and small, sitting on the bottom. I wondered how I would get across, until I saw the big logs on top of boulders, going from one side of the stream to the other. It wasn’t very deep, so I was in no danger even if I fell in, BUT I didn’t want to get wet!
I had walked for about fifteen minutes when I smelt smoke in the air. I couldn’t see where it was coming from but the smoke smell was getting stronger. I liked the pungent smoky air, although I thought it probably wasn’t good for my lungs! Then I saw a plume in the air in front of me, a thin line of smoke, grey and still. The wind had died down. I walked towards it.
I was going in the direction of the smoke and could now see exactly where it was coming from. In the distance was a cottage of some sorts – not a ‘romantic, white picket fence around it, roses growing over the front door and a little puppy sitting on the front step’ type of cottage. Just a ‘run down, small, dark, overgrown garden’ type of cottage.
I was wondering who lived in it as I was about to walk past , when the front door opened and a voice said “Hello, what are you doing?”
I turned to look and saw that the voice belonged to a tall thin man in his thirties, unkempt hair and long beard (Yuk to that beard) I thought immediately.
“I’m just walking the trail, that’s all” I answered “Why do you ask?”
“No reason, except not many people walk past here.”
“Oh well I have… it’s so peaceful. Do you actually live here?” I asked him, expecting his reply to be that he only came to get away from it all…
“Yes, I live here” and we both stood saying nothing, so I broke the ice with “I can hear chickens, I do love fresh eggs!”
Then he asked me what I had asked him… “Do you live in the city?” knowing the answer already by the look on his face.
“Yes, I do, that’s why I’m walking along this quiet, relaxing and soul rejuvenating’ path” I smiled.
Then quite unexpectedly he asked me if I would like to come in for a cup of tea or coffee.
I wasn’t sure what to say. After all I was alone in the woods with a stranger, who I didn’t know from a bar of soap! Should I go in or run?
Although I knew I shouldn’t really go inside the cottage, I automatically began walking towards it, following some bearded man who I didn’t know! But I didn’t feel in the slightest uneasy or scared.
I had not expected the inside of the cottage to be neat and tidy! It was admittedly tiny and as far as I could see at first glance had only two rooms but it looked clean. The one thing it did have was an open fire and I went and stood in front of it. “Cup of tea?” he asked
“Yes please. I’m Penny by the way.”
He didn’t have far to walk to put the kettle on. This looked like the one and only room. The other door must have led to his bedroom. ‘Goodness knows where his toilet is’ I thought.
There were two arm chairs, no dining table, so we sat down on those each to drink our tea, and I looked around the room as we did so.
There were quite a few paintings on the wall, and they looked so life like you felt as if you could reach out and touch the leaves, green and velvety, and the smooth grey and brown tree trunks, and after that, dangle your hands in the cool stream, massaging the smooth rocks.
“Did you paint these?” I asked Simon.
“Yes, I did” came the reply.
“They are beautiful, so real. Is this what you do for a living?”
“This is what I do for a living, yes, and I love it. My brother thinks I am lonely, and probably a madman, but I’m neither. I am meant to be here and I always will. I tried living the other kind of life, but I felt suffocated. It wasn’t just too many people, and not enough space, but not being able to be myself. I don’t miss anything from my previous life.”
Simon and I talked at length. I felt very comfortable and at ease in his company. In a strange kind of way, I felt completely at home, yet also as far away from my home as I possibly could be.
I could see his complete life in front of me because it was just this. No frills or extras. It was so minimum, but all Simon needed, and wanted.
He would have his brother pick him up to take him to the markets whenever he had work to sell, bring him home and then not see him until the next time.
I asked him where he got his food from and he took me to the back of his cottage and showed me his ‘pantry’… I had never seen so many vegetables and fruit trees in such a small space. And he did have a toilet – way down the back out of sight!
I told Simon about my life and he actually felt sorry for me!
“All that pressure, clutter and material things can’t make you happy” he stated.
“Well, they do Simon. Most of the time anyway. But like now, when I find life is a bit too overwhelming and stressful, I come on a camp march through the woods, as I’m doing now. I couldn’t live like this every day – it would drive me insane. I like my coffees, drinks after work, the movies, pubs and hanging out with friends. I wouldn’t change my life either.”
Simon showed me a short cut for the way home as it was later than I would have liked it to be for walking back. He gave me half a dozen eggs and a small loaf of bread he had made. As he packed them carefully into my back pack he quipped “I don’t suppose you would dream of having egg on toast for dinner?”
“Simon, I maybe what you call a ‘city girl’ in most ways BUT I am quite down to earth in other ways too! I Iove egg on toast, especially if my chef serves it on a silver platter!”
Simon had invited me to come back and visit him whenever I needed a break from ‘life’, and he could even pull out an extra sleeping bag if I wanted to stay for a couple of days.”And I usually invite anyone here so…”
I did need time away from the fast pace sometimes, and I would take him up on his offer, but I would always love going back to my ‘life’.
I wasn’t going to tell my large group of friends about Simon – they just wouldn’t understand, let alone think I could actually enjoy having a friend like him.
But he was now my friend, and I would be back.