In the village I grew up in there was a pond called ‘the Pit’. I don’t know why it was called the pit, it just was. In olden days it was a terrifying place full of foreboding. I imagine that somebody had drowned there a long time ago, and his or her ghost was known to frequent the spot. In my memory it was a dismal pond with muddy, swampy edges and odd bits of rusty farm machinery half visible under the water. We were never to play at the Pit. It was dangerous.
One summer I climbed up a tree at the Pit and then, in short order, fell out of it. Suddenly there was blood everywhere. I ran home, blood spurting from an as yet unidentified source, in a panic. Not because of the blood but because I had to tell my Mum what had happened and we were forbidden to play at the Pit. When I got home there was blood all over my legs and I was pretty convinced that I was on the verge of death.
As it turned out I had a small cut on my lip which required stitches. At this point I was unaware of the minimal nature of my injuries.
‘What happened?’ my Mum asked.
‘Well,’ I started, mind working furiously, ‘I was at the Cricket Pavillion and…’
Before I go on, I should mention that there was a cricket pitch not far from the Pit and we had not been forbidden from playing there.
‘…I was just walking around the back of it and I tripped…and…’
My Mum’s face probably betrayed her already complete lack of belief in my story and its stumbling presentation.
‘…and…there was some barbed wire…in a coil…and…and…I fell on it…and cut my leg and my face…because it was coiled up…so that’s why it cut me in those places and not anywhere else…’
‘Hmmm, interesting,’ said CoMumbo, as she cleaned up the blood. She turned to get some antiseptic, but then, as if she had just had a thought, she turned back.
‘Just one thing…There is no cut on your leg, just on your face…’
Cripes, I was rumbled. I think Mum probably let it go and took me to the doctor to have my lip seen to. A lucky escape for a master criminal tree climber and Pit trespasser.
So, I knew in general that ponds were out of bounds. But the pond in the field next to the drainage tunnel had not been overtly banned.
Ruth and I surveyed it. It was quite a nice looking pond. No evidence of rusty bits of machinery raising their clutching claws out of the water. Just a healthy surface layer of pond weed.
A really substantial layer of pond weed. Thick like a mat. Almost like a beautifully maintained lawn. Looked almost thick enough to walk on.
Which, once the thought has crossed your mind why would you not act upon it?
And there we stood in the middle of the pond, feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. After all, had we not performed a miracle by walking up the water like unto Jesus. I think we probably convinced ourselves that Lake Galilee was probably infested by a particularly vigorous strain of pond weed. We attended a CofE primary school in Forton and had to do a lot of learning about the Bible. I suspect that one of the nails in the coffin of my belief in God was the day that Mrs Hornby made me and Jeffrey Armer stand up in front of class and sing all the verses of ‘Tell me the stories of Jesus’ that we knew because we obviously knew all of them as we had chosen to be talking to each other rather than listening to her. It turned out that we didn’t know any of the verses of ‘Tell me the stories of Jesus’, but we knew enough to know that walking on water was something that was normally only achievable by certain deity-approved individuals.
And as we stood there, feeling pleased with ourselves, God turned his attention briefly to our little bit of countryside and said, ‘Thus far but no farther.’ And we started to sink beneath the waves like Atlantis, as water seeped up through the matted vegetation and washed towards us.
We made our way towards the bank of the pond, and there was one pathway that looked more secure than the rest.
‘I should go first,’ I said valiantly, like a knight of the Round Table thinking first of the damsel at my side, ‘because if it supports my weight, it will definitely support you as well.’
Such quick thinking logic! Such bravery! Off I went!
And as the green pathway sunk under my heavy footsteps, Ruth flung herself after me and ended up knee deep in water. I was dry though, so that was all right.
It could have been worse though, on the way back we found the glove that Ruth had lost in the drainage tunnel. It had been a present and she would have been in a lot of trouble if she had lost it.
Wet legs, though, they’ll always dry out.