I met him the other day along New Street; I’d know those eyes anywhere. I saw him again, fetching the ball when it almost landed on top of the Pavilion at Zeal (kicking it back to those lads on the Rec with a nifty move, he’s surprisingly quick). Some-one saw him trying to hitch a ride along the Venton Straight; the cars and the coaches and the Thompsons lorries kept passing by. He kept on walking.
You may well have come across him by the river - he loves the rivers around here - and during the long, hot days of the summer he could often be seen sitting upstream from Shilley Pool, face sun-wise, letting his bare feet trail in the churning waters of the Blackaton Brook until they were numb.
Last Thursday - I’m sure it was him - he was picking up the junk dumped on the bridlepath off the Belstone road. Other people’s unwanted leftovers and bad behaviour (he ‘specialises in dealing with them’, he said, ‘proper job.’). I caught him laughing with the nurses when I dropped in on a friend at Tavistock A&E; he’d been there all night.
I met him the other day along New Street; holding some-one’s hand.
Once he told me some of the nicknames of old friends long gone; of the days when there were a lot more ale-houses than chapels. He has some tales, I can tell you; of Christmases out at the Rising Sun, the Bullers, the Kings and getting on the wrong side of Mabel at the Drewe once or twice...Now the religious people looked down their noses at him for that sort of thing, but there’s nowhere he doesn’t go. They say his name lots of times on a Friday night but no-one would think to buy him a pint. He’s there alright, just like he was in the days when the miners came down from the moor, thirsty from the wind-blasted working land that gave them their living (for a time). All gone now.
I met him the other day along New Street; but I was in a hurry.
His hands were killing him, carrying the bags and steering the pushchair while the toddler was screaming to walk. I didn’t know where to look.
But up at Teigncombe last Sunday he was reminiscing about the songs and the prayers and the curses of the wool-carriers and tradesmen and the pilgrims as they snaked their way north and south across fields and fords and moorland. Long gone to us, maybe, but not to him.
He helped my friend Sean the other week, over Lydford way. Putting in the new hedgerows - replacing ones ripped out post-War - he just loves planting things, things that will last.
Loads of people say they’re ‘not religious’, or that he wouldn’t be interested in them because they’re ‘not holy enough’; but he is. Some blame him for everything; but he sees the hurt behind all that. Some just sneer and say he doesn’t even exist. Like Santa Claus. I guess it’s easier that way.
I met Jesus the other day along New Street - the one we sing about every Christmas - have you?