Not everyone who is young wants more out of life.
‘I caught the train from Pickering to Levisham, on the North Yorkshire Moors and watched the Flying Scotsman go through. Then I decided to go for a walk to Skelton Tower. I’d never been there and heard it had a good view from the top. After the Scotsman had gone I had wanted some peace and quiet, and found it within half an hour, if that. I traced the overgrown path from the station to the top of the bank. It was a lovely day, the valley below was misted over in the morning Sun, only the sound of skylark and sheep around me. There was only a light breeze and it was so warm I had to take my jacket off and tie it around my waist. It was so peaceful and quiet. I could see cars snaking down the road from Levisham to the station, but couldn’t hear them.
I sat for a while and drank my tea, it was a perfect moment.
It was then I decided to just keep on walking. I had my credit cards, mobile phone and I pad. I could transfer money from half our savings to my personal account – which I had run up to about £4000 over the past 6 months. I wanted time to be alone, to think without distractions, and, if necessary, find somewhere to stay’
I had just put my cup of coffee down, which was just as well. Her last statement was not what I expected to hear. We had chatted briefly when we first met in the dormitory we were sharing at the YHA, Whitby. She had told me she had a family, 2 grown up sons, both doing well.
I was somewhat taken aback when Sahra told me why she was here on her own. She didn’t look the type to walk out.
if there is a type. Not that she counted it as ‘walking out’. She had looked to be in her early fifties when we first met . Quite short, just over 5’, with a mop of unruly hair. Ordinary looking, respectable. Her tanned face was evidence of her rambling adventure, as she called it. It was something she had always wanted to do, before life and marriage interrupted her dreams. All her belongings fitted in a backpack. She said travelling light suited her, and she wore clothes for necessity, to to please herself rather than anyone else, she was happy.
We had got chatting over a coffee and she told me how ‘her adventure’ had begun.
‘Had you planned it?’ I asked
‘Not really, more spur of the moment. I had nearly left 6 months ago, I remember sitting on the beach and feeling unhappy, I wanted something different, something else in my life, it sounds silly but I didn't go because I had the only set of house keys with me. Since then I always took the spare back door key. In case I didn't go back.’
‘So, you were considering leaving?’ I asked.
‘Not intentionally’ Sahra continued……
‘As I walked on it became increasingly easy not to turn back. I had made a decision and would stick to it. It was 6pm when the call came through. I let it go straight to voicemail. Simon, my husband, could be very persuasive, and I wasn’t ready to talk..
‘'Where are you? I'm home now, give me a call, why do you never answer your phone!'’
I listened, then texted
-out walking, need a bit of space for a few days, there's a quiche in the fridge-
‘The phone rang again, again I let it go to voicemail’.
'What do you mean, out walking, and you need space, let me know where you, are and I'll pick you up"
I Iistened, then texted back again'
-Just need space, will not pick up, text only-
'There was one last message before I switched off my mobile'
-sahra, let's talk about this, please?, Simon, X -
....and I kept on walking.’
‘Which I did, of course. I’m walking my way around National Parks and staying In Youth Hostels.
‘What about your boys?, how do they feel about this’ I asked.
‘They used to worry about me at first’, but I’ve said I’ll visit them soon’.
‘What about you husband?’, I was curious about what she would say. Was it something he had, or hadn’t done. What sort of a person was he? She seemed and acted like a well educated person, well spoken, literate and good mannered.
What sort of person was she married to?
‘Oh, he ate the quiche, with a baked potato and a bit of salad, I rang him the next day’ she said, matter of factly.
‘I wanted to make sure he was all right, he had a bit of a rant, so I cut him off’.
I asked if he had a temper, perhaps that was why she had decided to leave!. Years of being downtrodden, having to do what she was told, although she didn’t strike me as someone who was easily intimidated.
‘No more than most, if he had been reasonable it would have been harder to stick to my decision, but I wouldn’t have changed my mind. He always was very persuasive and I was always very easygoing. People sometimes take you for granted’.
‘Ah’, I said, ‘Did he take you for granted?,’
There was no answer, and it was getting harder to tease out of her why she had left him. Or had she left her old life behind? She seemed happy, and well adjusted, enjoying a new found freedom.
‘How are the finances holding up, do you still have your savings? if you don’t mind me asking.’
‘Oh, I always had my work and State pensions paid directly into my own bank account’ she replied.’
I immediately revised my estimate of how old she was – must be at least 63!
I don’t suppose I will ever know why she decided to go on her long walk, perhaps sometimes you just need to get away. I thought of the words of a song.
‘Everybodys got a Hungry Heart’ by Bruce Springsteen. I suppose it could be applied to little old ladies too, especially those who don’t look and act like little old ladies .