Dying with my Boots On

The body was lying on its side, almost as if placed into the recovery position. Near to the blackthorn hedge at the second to bottom field. In winter I would collect sloe berries to make sloe gin.

The sun was bright, it was a warm overcast summer afternoon.

I knew he was dead.

I panicked. I didn't know what to do. I couldn't touch him. He was Grandad. My grandad. I couldn't check for a pulse as touching him would break into a personal space that was not allowed. I loved my grandad and my grandma. I loved them as parents as he, particularly, had almost become a surrogate father when my own died young. But we didn't touch. Maybe a Victorian thing, I dunno, but I never even hugged him or Grandma.

So I couldn't touch him. He was dead. It had been hours since Grandma had phoned me to say that Trim, the black and white Border Collie, had come back home alone. I'd driven over to the farm and gone to look for him.

I stood in the field and saw the body. Grandad was dead.

I ran back up to the farm house. I told Grandma. I phoned my Mum, we phoned 999.

The ambulance and police arrived. I took them to where the body lay.

The undertaker arrived.

My grandma was calm. Stoic. Her faith sustained her.

My auntie arrived. That was when I broke down and sobbed. The shock kicked me hard, finally.

I was sad to lose Grandad. He was a farmer. He worked hard at Pont's grocery shop. Saved money, bought a milk round, saved some more, bought a farm and dairy herd to provide milk for the round. Expanded the farm, sheep, horses. He loved farming. He was a countryman. He was a peasant. Unruly, kind, of the earth and woods and fields. Cheeky, funny, proud.

He lived his life on his own terms and as soon as he was able to he stopped being an employee. For many years he'd worked hard, built a life, but all the while answering to no one, except God and Grandma. When he came to retirement age, and drew his pension, he carried on doing what he'd done beforehand, only gently slowing down to match his slowly aging body. The milk herd went. Then the bullocks. The sheep flock shrank. But the Collies remained.

Age, and infirmity will get to me too. But I think about how he lived and the mismatch in how I'm living and how I'd like to be living. Becoming more of a wage-slave. Becoming tired, anxious and fed up of playing the corporate game. Becoming more aware of the ticking of the clock and the changing of seasons that I immerse myself in less and less. Being pulled away from my core.

And the screens. The ever-present, glaring screens, that suck more and more of life into their watchful apps.

I'm tired. There has to be a better way.

I'm developing a view of the world. A view that thinks we can reclaim a more natural, slow and deliberate way of life. A way to embrace nature. A way to build and nurture community. A way to toil our own virtual or actual little plots, at our own speed, to provide enough. A way to live that may be poorer in hard cash, but is richer in time. A way to live that allows us the mental space to create our art and appreciate it, and the world.

I'm going to tell more stories here, in the hope that through my writing, I can eventually earn a crust, some cheese and a little beer to make merrie.

Sometime after I found Grandad that day, after the sadness and grief and loss began to soften, I couldn't help to smile. Because when it all came to the end. He quite literally died with his boots on.

So I want to do more writing, as writing is the work that I'd gladly continue, even when, like my grandad I draw my pension, begin to slow down and drift towards the day that I'll leave this mortal coil, perhaps with my metaphorical boots on, slumped over a worn out keyboard.

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