Monday 28 September 2015


Long passages occur when I don't leave my little writing shed in the shires, but occasionally, for a dear friend, I willingly face train schedules and cross country shenanigans. This summer I have managed Hertfordshire, Ely, Wisbech, Hampshire, Chichester and a few days ago, Bury St Edmunds, where I discovered the significance of St Edmund's Wolf. My friend Colette was kind enough to stop outside the Abbey; a wolf greeted us at the entrance and then inside, seemingly, a pack. Since C and I both have The Lupus, the synchronicity was quite striking. Here is a little grisly yet romantic tale about King Edmund:

Edmund, King of East Anglia, fought against the Danish invasion but on 20 November 869, he was captured. When he refused to give up his Christian faith, the Danes tied him to a tree, shot him with arrows until he 'bristled like a hedgehog', and then decapitated him. The King's men came to find his body after the battle but they could not find his head. Hearing a cry of 'Here, here, here!' from a nearby wood, they discovered a wolf protecting the head of the King. The wolf allowed the men to take the head, and when placed with the body, a miracle occurred. The head fused back. 

C and her husband, known only as the mysterious Badger of Badger's Wood, were the most delightful, charming hosts, and their barn conversion is a dream. Acres of land have been transformed by Badger into a haven for newly planted trees - thousands of them. I was taken on a tour and shown a badger's set, taught how to tell a hawthorn from a dog rose, how a willow might seed itself if left to her own devices, and what a roebuck's bark sounds like (I heard him and saw him prance, especially for me).

It was so magical that I forgot about The Real World, and rude awakenings. 
When I bought my ticket at the Cambridge train station, I had simply asked for a return. I hadn't looked at my ticket. It was a shock when the station official stopped me, called me back and accused me of having intentionally given him a folded up ticket in the sneaky hope of getting away with the wrong ticket - he was looking at me as though I were a hardened criminal. This, inspite of the fact that there was a stamp on my ticket, which had been approved by the ticket conductor only a few stops earlier. 'What shall I do,' I asked. 'Tell me what to do.' 'You can go through this time,' he said, 'but,' and he drew a circle around his face, 'Remember this face. I'll be watching you.'
I refused to budge. I refused to be falsely judged. 'I won't go through,' I said. 'Tell me what to do to make this right.'
Eventually he pointed out another station official. I walked over to him, explained my predicament and although I'd have rather not, found myself in tears.
This seemed to amuse the official but it also made him incredibly kind, helpful and didactic - he advised me to toughen up: 'You need to get a bit hardened.' Which was ironic since I'd just been accused of being exactly that, in a different context.
'You lot get really upset don't you?' he commented. I prefer not to focus on what he meant by 'you lot'.
One complication at a time.
I paid my penalty fare of twenty pounds.  Wiped away my tears. And told the nice man I was going to prove my mettle then and there by speaking up. 'No, don't,' he advised. 'You'll just get more upset. I'll have a word with him later.'

One battle at a time. Sometimes you have to take your kindnesses where you find them. 


Yin said...

If it makes you feel any better Martine has laughed at me for similar tears of frustration on being wrongly accused of things. But we all know exactly why that is so maddening!

Infinite Riches said...

Hi Shaista x

I just had to comment on this post because of the badger thing! (Though I have been awake since Sunday morning so please forgive typos etc..!)

My grandad (my only remaining grand-parent, who turns 90 next March and is fitter than most 50-year olds!) is Badger. For many years, my beloved Grannie was a Brown Owl (a Brownie guide leader), and as my grandad often helped at meetings, or when they came to the house for various activities, the girls didn't know what to call Tony so he chose Badger! So, when I, the first grandchild, was born (and he was still far too young to be a 'gramps'), I too called him Badger. And it stuck! 36 years later, everybody from my dad, to his friends in the village all call him Badger. They named their home 'Badger's Bank', and we had great fun over the years buying badger-themed gifts...

Then, when my good friend Sarah had her first child, her dad refused to be called Grand-anything, feeling far too youthful for such a monicker, so she asked if they too could use Badger :) Ages ago I wrote an article about what we call our grand-parents - I find it fascinating.

As for the station 'incident', I suspect he meant women by 'you lot', but let's ignore that depressing thought! Don't be ashamed of your tears, I often cry at the tiniest thing, but the crying is rarely anything to do with the insignificant (apparent) trigger.

Given all that life has thrown at you, you know in your heart you are an insanely strong gal, but that doesn't make you hard - thank goodness! So please don't harden up, just stay strong but soft (so long as that doesn't sound too much like an Andrex advert slogan!) ;)

Love KTD xox

Sherry Blue Sky said...

What a glorious spot you visited. I loved the story of the wolf guarding the severed head.........and that you saw some in person makes me envious. It must have been galling to be wrongly accused. As if anyone couldnt tell instantly you are honest to the max. I'm glad the second man believed you. I'm glad you have had some trips this year to beautiful places. Very cool. I love hearing about them through your blog.

Shaista said...

Next time we meet you have to share some of your anecdotes with me. What I didn't mention, because it's a whole 'nother layer, is of course the race issue. The first man was a moustachioed Indian man. And the second was an elderly English man. Felt like reverse racism... or just plain old prejudice. But I know you know all the complicated nuances very well xxx

Shaista said...

Katie, thank you so much for feeling inspired enough to share Badger's story - I loved it. That's three Badgers I know now!
If I were someone's grandmother I'd definitely want a cool appellate rather than grandma - which can feel so ageing!
No, am definitely not in danger of becoming hard. Nor do I ever want to be. Andrex all the way - except when I occasionally need to show my teeth - but that's essential for us, Young Women With Endless Illness, don't you agree?
Love from up the road xxx

Shaista said...

Yes I figured you'd love the wolf story! You must have so many wolfy objects dotted around your rooms? People must always be giving you some?
Your peaceful Buddha is something I look at every single day snuggled up between my flower pots xxx

Marcoantonio Arellano (Nene) said...

the strenth of your spirit is inspirational


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