On 21st June, the Summer Solstice, I was involved in an unexpected 'incident', while exploring a historic site in Surrey.
I had dropped off my Eldest at his friend's flat in Reading, as they were venturing to Exmoor for a camping trip. I decided to dawdle on my way home, in order to explore a historic site. What happened next, I will relate by repeating the subsequent text messages that were exchanged between me and my Eldest, and between me and a woman who I will call Susan.
Warning in advance: This is darker and more upsetting than my usual posts. That day haunts me still. I'm writing this, hopefully, as a form of catharsis. I have provided, in brackets, the times of the text messages.
Me (1919): Well, my afternoon was one of mixed fortunes. I explored and photographed enough of Runnymede for a blog post, and discovered a Harvester in Old Windsor. I also ended up covered in blood and hugging a hysterical woman. This year has had far too much trauma.
Eldest (1938): What happened?
Me (1953): After lunch I walked along the bank of the Thames, following a National Trust path. After half a mile, the path crosses the road and passes through a gate in the hedgerow, to enter the meadows where Magna Carta was signed. I was waiting to cross when a small dog squeezed under the gate, sprinted into the road and went straight under the wheels of a passing car (which didn't stop). It had run away from its owner, a young woman called Susan, who lives on a local riverboat and comes from Cornwall. I scooped it up and laid it on the verge. It was alive but obviously dying. I phoned the number on its collar but the dog, Lily, died in my arms just before Susan arrived. You can imagine the next few minutes. Once Susan was calmer, I carried the dog back to the houseboat, then returned to my car to wash my hands and arms in the river and to change my very bloody shirt. Guess it was good that I brought my backpack after all. Continued my quest, but it felt a bit robotic after that. Guess I was in shock. Burst into tears sitting alone at the Magna Carta Memorial.
Eldest: That's horrible...
Me: One of the few walks I'm glad you missed
Eldest: Devastating... I don't really know what to say that could console
Me: Just finished dinner at the Harvester in Old Windsor. Heading home now. Pets need feeding x
Eldest: I'm sorry it happened. For both the woman and you.
Me: Be out of contact til I get home. I'll let you know when I'm there.
Eldest: Take care
Me (2130): Home. Passed three accidents on M25. At the first, paramedics were giving someone CPR on the roadside. This has been my strangest Solstice ever.
Eldest: Jfc. What a day
Susan (1827): Hello, I think this is the number of the gentleman who tried to help Lily today? I just wanted to say thank you so much for trying to help her and for carrying her home for me. I really appreciate that you were there for her and that you tried to help. Susan x
Me (1904): Thank you Susan. I'm afraid my stoicism didn't last long after I left you. I buried my Nan last week, and her middle name was Lily. I found myself in a bit of a state. Delayed shock and repressed grief at the same time. Now I'm calmer, I believe it was good that I was there, that I could comfort your little dog in her last moments, that she knew she was not alone. I hope that gives you some comfort at this sad time. Thanks again x
Susan (1916): Oh no, I'm so sorry to hear about your Nan and then to have to experience this so soon afterwards. But I agree, I'm really glad that you were there for her before she went, she was alovely affectionate dog who loved to be with people so I'm sure she appreciated that someone was there with her. And I'm deeply grateful that you were there to help, I don't know what I would have done if I'd had to find her by myself and not known exactly how it went at the end. It definitely gives me some comfort to know that a compassionate person was there with her at the end and it helped me a lot, having someone with me to help take her home. Thank you so much, Susan x
Thus ended the Longest Day.