It is the Wednesday of Holy Week. The day before Maundy Thursday, when for the hours before midnight the sacrament will rest on an altar decorated with moss and tiny trees and candles, many candles. But today it is only Wednesday, and two women are to be seen heading up the hill opposite the gates to Benmore Gardens. They are accompanied by two rampant spaniels, and their pockets bulge strangely.
Some way up the hill, they pass a fallen tree and come to an abrupt stop, exclaiming in delight. The tree is draped with curtains of moss, and it is this which has caught their attention. Moments later, they have produced plastic carrier bags from their bulging pockets and filled two of them with the moss. They then continue uphill. Later, they can be seen scrambling precariously up a steep bank to reach some particularly succulent sphagnum. It seems to matter little that they are not in their first youth, nor that they are rapidly becoming somewhat dishevelled. They press on, each now burdened with two bags. They are laughing as they speculate what any passer-by might think. Escaped lunatics? Eccentric campers with their shopping? But in all the years in which they have done this, they have never met a soul. No-one has ever had to wonder.
This day, however, is graced by fleeting sun. It is, after all, April. The schools are on holiday, and there are trippers in the land. People who have come to Cowal to walk the forest paths, in these straitened times, rather than flee to the Canaries. And so it is that a host of such travellers appears on the path. The first four pass quickly, perhaps because they have dogs who may become entangled with the rampant spaniels. But the remaining two greet the women… pause …and then it comes.
“What have you got in the bags?”
“We thought it might be shopping.”
And they laugh. And so Mrs Heathbank and Mrs Blethers – for our mad women are indeed the writer of this blog and her pal - have to come clean, for the first time in ten years. And the great thing is that it is a joyous moment, that the strangers think it sounds a wonderful thing, that they regret that they are only visiting for the day. We tell them that they are the first people ever to ask about the bags of moss, and the woman tells us:
“Don’t mind me – I’m just a nosey bitch.” And then she gives us a hug, for good measure, and we part as if we had known each other for years.
A good day, I think.
I wonder slightly about the change in person at the end of this account, but it doesn't work if I keep it in 3rd person. Purists can save their comments for another time...