Reeth 1 (2)

The squash team began to visit from 1999 onward, post-deliverance. I go purely for the fun of it. It’s a bit like a soap opera only the episodes are a six months to a year apart. It’d been talked about for a long time, but the important step of going away without wives hadn’t. 

“Erhum, I couldn’t leave Jean,” says Peter, coughing. He’s also good to his mother, children and stray animals.

he following Saturday, it comes up in general conversation. “Its nowt to do with me,” says Jean. “You need a break, get off with you. You’ve some time owing.”

eter looks studious, “Well, actually I’ve got to get three days in before the end of the month. What do you think, Dave?”

t’s not a problem for me.  I only work two days a week.  

“I’ll have a go. What about anybody else?” No takers.

t’s out of season, and The Buck at Reeth has a room in our price range.

“Peter, I’ve managed to get a room with twin beds next Wednesday.”

“Oh great, I’m there.”

wenty four hours later the phone goes. Was that somebody wheezing?  No, whistling tunelessly then? No, its Peter, breathing.

“Sssss …, er, Dave, Geoffrey’s thrown a sickie, can you do anything?”

“What do you want me to do, a home visit? Can’t his own gp do that?”

“No you daft apath, there’s nowt wrong with him. Ssss … Can you get him a room at th’otel in Reeth?”

introduce them to The Corpse Way after afternoon tea at Iverson’s in Keld. Geoffrey has a lager. My ex-next door roomie is renovating yet another cottage. The weather’s perfect and they like the picture postcard.  The Farmers is shut so we have to go to Low Row. It’s three in the afternoon and there’s a session in full swing. A stout woman in a black outfit and thick make-up comes out onto the front patio. She has rubber legs, a huge smile and eyes Geoffrey up,  

“Anybody seen a cat?”  

eoffrey’s sucking on a cigar and gives her one of his more mournful looks. She recognises there’ll be no change there.

eter clears his throat and fills the gap, “Erhum, no, we haven’t.” Such a nice lad.

“Morticia … Morticia.” She totters away round the side of the pub, calling.

eoffrey turns to face us. Unbelief etched into his face, he silently mouths “M-O-R-T-I-C-I-A.” He makes a supreme effort, and for a moment he just about manages to keep a straight face. Finally he gives up the struggle and grins; its a hugely enjoyable moment. 

e wanders out after getting some more in,

Dick turned toward movement.  Two ornately plumed large black horses pawed the ground, climbing the gentle incline to a church.  Their burden was a laden antique wood and glass hearse complete with top-hatted driver.  An unsteady assortment of black suits and frocks and hats made their way across the carpark and turned into the churchyard.  A bell began to toll.

“You’ve just been to a wake, Joe,” said Dick. 

“Oh, that’s what it was,” Joe nodded.

Dick’s mind wandered, back to another time, another pub, another tragedy, “Do you know, there was the strangest thing.  I knew a bloke once who died.”  

“I’ve known several,” laughed Joe, “This isn’t another of your stories, is it?” 

“No, seriously.  It was like this,” and Dick started the tale of Dr. Edwards.  “I  met him in the eighties, when I worked in Northallerton.  We played a bit of twenty overs evening cricket together, so I never knew him that well really.  I do remember he was one of these retired doctors who went round doing locums, picking and choosing.  He once went to the Isle of Wight.  When I went to the West Riding I forgot about him.  Well, you know I come up here fairly regularly now.”

“Yes, we’ve heard.” said Joe.

“Well, maybe three or four years after, I called at ‘The Drover’s’.  Its about five miles from here; we’ll pass it this afternoon.  It was a freezing cold autumn day, and I remember the roaring fire.  And there he was, pulling pints?”

“Who was?  Get on with it.”  said Joe. 

Dick ignored him, “The good doctor.  We talked a bit, but we’d nothing in common and he did seem a bit distant.  I imagined him as a bit of a visionary; you know, a dropout.  Perhaps he’d chosen a country life over the hassle of hospitals.  I thought it was great, why don’t I do that?  Well it just goes to show.”

“What does?” Tim and Joe were interested at last.  

“Well I called again, maybe twelve months after, and he wasn’t there.  A new bloke was serving on.  Apparently Dr. Edwards had died of a heart attack that spring.  And no, he hadn’t chosen to opt out of the rat race.  He’d retired and bought the pub, and a small holding on the fell side, to look after his wife.  And then he’d died; must have only been in his early fifties, poor beggar.”

Joe had thrown his boots off and was getting a cigar going.  “It doesn’t pay to flog yourself.”

“You certainly don’t.  I wonder what happened to his wife?”  asked Tim.  

“They’re all scattered, having a real time. Fancy, int’ middle o’ th’afternoon.” Now we all know Geoffrey is no stranger to drinking during daylight hours. Anyone who saw him in the Wembley coach park before ‘Town’ won the playoffs can attest to that. But, did he disapprove of this tipsy assembly? Difficult to say. Now was as good a time as ever,

“You enjoy the walk then Geoffrey?” He turned toward me, and some facial muscles were working, I was fairly sure, but not the ones needed for speech,

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

ustralia played S. Africa in the cricket world cup semi-final that day.  The Buck doesn’t have Sky TV so I to drive to The Bridge at Grinton to catch the finish. I’m in luck, the landlord’s a cricket nut. It’s terrific, evenly matched and competitive, going right to the last over of the day as S. Africa gradually overhaul Australia’s total. They need one to win when Allan Donald and Lance Kleusner run each other out. It doesn’t come much better than this. Was there anyone out there wondering where I was? Maybe not. But just in that moment I felt many things, and lucky came out the strongest. Lucky to find a TV, lucky to be up in the Dales and most of all lucky to be fit and well.  

e watch the quoits match behind The Buck that evening and are run off by the midges. Peter and Geoffrey want to know the rules, but it’s all far too serious for a tutorial. 

eoffrey mutters darkly, “Not very friendly, are they?”

e wander over to The Black Bull and drink red wine with our bar meal and push the boat out – we have another bottle of wine and the cheese course as well. The wine is labelled specially for the village and everybody’s drinking it. We take a stroll across the green. The night is cold and the wind bites the cheeks, the moon is huge and the stars are everywhere.  Quite a day.