On a warm day under a grey sky on Exmoor I’m rattling down a stoney track on my mountain bike; descending at speed after a long climb. I’m flowing, enjoying the sensation of speed and concentration on the border of control.

In front of me I can see the track broadens, turning to the right, and doubling back on itself, running past a house to the left. As I near the apex of the bend I slow slightly to look at the house, which is nicely proportioned though now delapidated to rotten flakiness; sitting pretty but crumbling away. Empty, I think.


A split second later my eyes catch the bottom left hand sash window where, set strikingly against the dark background, an old women stares out, as if to sea; keening eyes, static. Dressed darkly her pale face hovers, ghostly; white hair pulled back into bun.

As I pass in front of the house, without time to be spooked, I find myself waving instinctively, raising my left hand. The woman responds with a wave of her right hand. A smile breaks her abstraction, as if I’ve made her day.

I’m drawn to comfort her, but by now I’ve rounded the corner and am picking up speed again, weaving across the track. Questions start forming: How long will she wait at the window? What is she waiting for? Who looks after her? What kind of a life has she had, or will have? Is she happy?


August 2010