You could meet a Pat – By @katiebcreates

By Katie Burrell


You could meet a Pat 


It’s the 29th August. I’m in Devon for the week because Andy’s here doing his placement at Bray Leino. I drove for 5 long hours. Google maps teased me the whole way with how much journey time I had left…”1 hour 42 minutes until you reach your destination.” Then 5 minutes later…”1 hour 50 minutes left until you reach your destination.” I did feel a bit anxious driving that distance by myself. Well, Molly was with me but she didn’t say much other than when she furiously barked at motorcyclists going by with there big helmet heads and scared me witless. 

We’re staying in a tiny village called Georgeham which is really close to Croyde. Andy’s working during the daytime so I’m occupying myself by getting out and walking. I really don’t mind being in my own company and I find hiking really cathartic. The coastal scenery here is staggeringly beautiful. Cliff drops that are so steep your stomach does a little flip as you watch the waves below. The majesty of nature around you is so humbling. 

Today I’m driving to Heddon Valley. Picture towering cliffs and a river running through the wooded ground below. The walk I’m going to do is about 7 miles so not too long but it’s very steep in places so might end up feeling longer. I put Molly on the lead – there are so many Gulls and Terns perching on the jagged cliff rocks – I don’t trust her to not give into instinct, chase one of them and tumble over the edge. 

We start walking. The first mile is a steady trudge up a pebbled track. There’s a canopy of spindly branches above – little shards of sunlight pierce their way through tiny openings in the dense weave of leaves. The path begins to level out and we get our first satisfying glimpse of a calm, cobalt sea. Pausing to take in the view, I look back at the descending trail we’ve just climbed and notice a lady walking towards us, Nordic poles in hand, looking out of breath but happy. She reaches us. We get talking. Molly instantly warms to her. She’s called Pat. 

She’s in her sixties. She’s on holiday with her partner Kevin – they have a static caravan in Croyde – but he’s off playing golf today and whenever he does that she goes walking on her own. I notice she has a Staffordshire accent and very swollen ankles, they look almost bruised. She starts to chomp on a sandwich and mentions that she has diabetes so needs to keep her blood sugar levels up while she’s walking. I suggest that it might be nice to walk together. We do. 

Isn’t it funny? I’m walking and talking with a stranger. Something we’re told never to do as children. Stranger danger! I’m not sure if it’s the lovely weather or if it’s the salty sea air. I certainly feel safe and happy here. Would I be doing this if I was in a London park and a guy called Terry had approached me? I’m not sure. No offence Terry. 

Pat and I do the entire 7 mile walk together, happily chatting the whole way. When we find ourselves back at the National Trust cafe we stop and sit – each with a clotted cream ice-cream – and chat some more. When we eventually part ways after spending most of the afternoon together we give each other a warm hug. 

I feel happy. What a great day! It’s made me think, why are we sometimes so afraid to engage in conversation with people we don’t know? Why don’t we smile at people we pass in the street or have a quick chat with a stranger on our daily commute? As children, we’re told to never interact with people we don’t know, but as adults I think that sometimes we need to ignore this rule that’s been ingrained in us so deeply. It’s good to occasionally step outside your zone of comfort and see what happens. You could meet a Pat and it might just make your day. And theirs. 

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