41 - Wild Isle - Improbable encounters
Wightfibre are digging up the road outside my door. They have fenced off the pavement with cheerful neon green plastic barricades, interspersed with tall red and white traffic cones. Today, having negotiated this chicane of cones, I had not expected, as I ambled purposelessly down the High Street, to meet one of them, apparently escaped out of line and on an urgent errand, coming up the hill in the other direction, wide red bell skirt swinging round hurrying ankles. I am told that this cone is often to be seen riding the buses. I don’t know if he is an acquaintance of the red Royal Mail pillar box I’ve seen a few times striding across the zebra crossings in town. Perhaps.
Purposeless walking, as I’ve mentioned before, in my experience never fails to reap rich rewards, wherever you live. But The Island is a purposeless paradise. I think it’s because we’re on the edge of things. We look up because the seagulls are screaming down at us, and we look outwards because the sea is there, forever twinkling at us from the bottom of the hill, teeming with promise and a constant bustle of containerships, sailing boats and tankers bound for who knows where. As we gaze out into the distance, we’re never quite sure what it is we are seeing. Are those just dark waves, or are they dolphins? A weird optical illusion means that the Portsmouth car ferry, as it glides out of Fishbourne, seems to run along the rails of Ryde pier when seen from the esplanade. The unlikely is happening right before our very eyes if we care to look for it – and, if we feel like dressing a little differently, we can, and we fit in just fine because we are surrounded by the improbable.
When we just go for a walk, straight from the front door, with no purpose at all, and no expectations, we are most likely to be surprised. Trudging along the pavement with little hope of any kind of uplift the other day, for instance, I was stopped by a stranger who just had to tell me how much she liked the hat I was wearing, and how well it suited me. I strode on, of course, with a new bounce in my step and new confidence in the possibilities of life.
These tiny, unexpected moments and meetings live on in our memories and feed the imagination. Before I finish, I can’t resist sharing with you another small but improbable encounter which I captured in the video below. This unidentified but completely charming water creature continues to bring me joy and delight, even though our mysterious meeting was short and took place as long ago as April 2018. We don’t need to be David Attenborough to find life amazing on our doorstep.