During the final hours before relative strangers converge on his public house and homestead, Arnold busied himself preparing food, which he always found therapeutic, and generally fretted about how the evening was going to pan out. Leaving Harold Garstang in charge of the guest list was, to a certain extent, a bit like throwing a thousand piece jigsaw into the air because you believe it will all fit together perfectly when it comes down and lands on the carpet. Garstang’s social contacts must run far and wide; the old boy has been around a while. On the grand scale of things, Matson has been in this village about two minutes and only knows a handful of people.
This train of thought was getting him nowhere. He will finish organizing the victuals for this evening and take a stroll to clear his head. Some hope…
It was a little after one o’clock when Arnold Matson left his pub and headed towards Cranberry Woods to take in some fresh air and change the picture in his imagination. ‘Switch off for a couple of hours,’ he told himself, ‘and you’ll be fine.’
Late autumn and early winter were now converging and the clouds overhead looked strangely menacing as Matson peered back across the valley. He was also glad of the extra couple of layers he had pulled on before donning his trusted fleece and waterproof, for there was no question that the temperature was plummeting.
Mid-week in Cranberry Woods is nothing short of a holistic sanctuary for Arnold Matson. The likelihood of meeting anyone was fairly remote and that is just the way he liked it. He would occasionally share a footpath with a dog walker as they briefly acknowledged one another, but once he headed off the beaten track the place was his own.
Within thirty-minutes of leaving his pub, Matson may as well have arrived on a different planet. He slowly makes his way through the thicket to the fallen oak that he feels is a personal friend and which provides the perfect resting place. He quietly unpacks his flask of coffee and settles down in the light undergrowth. All he has to do now is stay silent and let this majestic little world unfold around him.
Once he has become part of the scenery, he begins to wonder…How many tiny pairs of eyes are upon me now? He spots a species of hawk hovering in the vale in the distance as it waits patiently for any sign of movement that will signal its supper. The unmistakeable echoing sound of ring doves reverberate in the copse to his right and as his eyes become accustomed to the undergrowth which surrounds his feet, he begins to pick out the detail of sleeping shoots and fungi. There is not a single murmur of traffic noise in earshot, and the only movement in the magical pure stillness is the steam wafting and evaporating away from the coffee cup he clasps in his gloved hand…
Matson is at one with creation and slowly drops his head back to thank whoever may be looking down upon him. The answer appears sooner than he could have imagined…A solitary coal tit, its tiny, inquisitive head flicking from side to side, watches him intently from a conifer as Matson gently reclines and smiles towards the heavens. Move now and the moment will be lost forever.
Eye contact between a man in his element and a harmless creature. For thirty-seconds there is nothing else that exists on the planet. Four thousand, five hundred million years since the earth was spun from dust and rock around the sun and it has come to this. Matson silently admires the perfect form that clings to the branch barely twelve feet away from him. He is jealous of the simplistic beauty of the creature’s allotted time on this planet. It will never know money, it will never have to queue for food and it has never to concern itself with love. It wakes early, it avoids danger, it sings to find a mate, they have offspring, they move on.
The bird suddenly hears something it cannot trust in the woods…and is gone.