Climbing gates

The grass in the meadow beside the house has grown thick and tall in the moisture and warmth of the past two weeks. There will be a good cut of silage. The five bar gate to the field stood closed, despite the lack of livestock meaning it was not required.

Once that gate would have been climbed by the schoolboy from the house next door, once it would have been vaulted by boys from other houses on the road.

It is some years since I climbed a gate. I had gone to look for a man whose whereabouts were uncertain, it had seemed important to call at the house.

The potholes in the lane had been filled with fresh stones, or at least it seemed they had, perhaps it was just the summer dryness that had created an under wheel firmness. The long six bar galvanised gate was padlocked, very firmly. Near his front door, a line of clothes blew in the June breeze. If there was washing on the line, he must be well and he could not be far away. His car was not to be seen, but that was not conclusive evidence he was not around.

The padlock presented no barrier to entry, climbing the gate was a simple matter. I remembered those companions in youthful times who would have vaulted it. Only in reaching the top of the gate did the thought occur that the entrance was on falling ground; that the padlock end of the long gate was significantly further from the tarmac than the hinge end. No matter. Bringing the left leg over the top, I leaped to the ground, landing flat-footed on the floor with the elegance of a potato sack. The effect of the jump was strange – there was a feeling of having been punched in the nose.

The man was not to be found and the second scaling of the gate was at the upper end, with a climb down the other side; no more jumping.

The hedgerows assumed a mocking tone as I passed them along the road on the journey from the man’s yard; great purple foxgloves and white cow parsley dominating the long grass of the verges. In the fields, the buttercups, the commonplace colour of childhood years, had blanketed the country around, their full, deep yellow offset by the deep greens around them. The flowers seemed to say, “you have grown older, we have never changed.” The day will come when the thought of gate climbing will have ceased and yet the colours will still remain.

One reaches an age of accepting that things are not what they once were.

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