As I’ve said before, I now accept more or less every invitation extended, in fact I appreciate it when people include me. We always went to every social occasion as a couple, so being invited on my own is flattering and heart warming. I assumed that Beloved was the attraction, and that I simply came as the lesser part of the package.
Not so? Maybe.
However, I tend to gravitate towards widows more than couples in my own invitations. In the olden days I never saw widows as ‘widows’, just as women on their own. There is always a slight feeling of unease when it comes to couples; even the most friendly ones. Is it perhaps that the new widow reminds them that it could happen to them too and they’d rather not face up to the possibility? Is it that we’d rather push the thought away as far as possible? After all, as my son said “it really doesn’t bear thinking about.” Beloved and I thought about it a lot during the last couple of years but it still didn’t feel ‘real’; not until it happened.
Being with other widows is easy. Of course, we talk mainly about the person we lost, and how we lost them. Perhaps we repeat ourselves at each meeting, that doesn’t seem to matter. We go into detail about the final illness, what the doctors said, what the children did or said, how shattered we felt, how grief is all pervading and how hard it is to pick up the threads of life afterwards. We all share that knowledge and understand. Spending time with other widows is easy and healing.
The other day I came home after a lovely long and chatty lunch with one of these widows. I was feeling relaxed and, after chewing the fat for several hours, I was ready to sit quietly and put my feet up back home. Before I reached the front door I was stopped in my tracks by a tremendous din outside the gate into the castle grounds. Those of you who pay attention to such matters know that my hedged boundary marches with an open expanse of greensward which is used by dog walkers and tourists visiting the castle. I rushed to the gate, the row really was fearful, with screaming and shouting and high pitched dog yelping. Lorna’s greyhound was attacking a smaller dog as well as Robert, its owner, both of them howling in pain and anger. Lorna was some distance away, but a friend walking with her was nearer my gate; looking down on the fracas I saw the greyhound turn away from Robert and his dog and run back to Lorna. Everybody was shouting by now, me included. As the greyhound reached Lorna she began to beat him with the doubled lead, viciously, with all her strength. Now the greyhound howled too. Seeing the carnage I screeched for Lorna to stop, which was the signal for her friend to screech at me. I couldn’t make out much of what she said but “you don’t know what happened, mind your own business” came across loud and clear. Lorna was still beating her greyhound and I was frantic to make her stop but Lorna’s friend screeched all the louder the more I tried to bring Lorna to her senses. Nobody paid any attention to anybody, all was uproar and noise. Perhaps it’s a good thing that there’s a steep bank between my gate and the path below where all this was happening otherwise I’d have rushed down and beaten Lorna with her own dog lead. And might have been had up for assault and battery myself.
By now Robert had picked himself up, gathered his badly bleeding dog, examined his own thigh which showed a deep bite and, cursing Lorna and swearing to involve the police he went off. Apparently, this was the second time the greyhound had attacked Robert’s dog. This story was quickly all over Valley’s End, with everybody taking Robert’s side.
Lorna is a mad woman, everybody says so. In the evening she came ringing my doorbell, ostensibly “to apologise for her friend screeching obscenities at me” but really to convince me that she ‘has never beaten a dog before’ - not true acc. to consensus around the village - and that Robert only got bitten because he came between his dog and the greyhound. Some excuse! The greyhound is out of order and needs muzzling and training, not beating. According to Lorna he ‘fully understands that he has done wrong and equally understands that’s why I beat him” . Did I say she is generally considered to be mad? When I remonstrated with her, pointing out that animals do not reason, she calmly said 'we must agree to disagree’.
The greyhound is still roaming unmuzzled, Robert’s and his dog’s wounds are healing, incurring hefty vet’s bills and some painful treatment for Robert, and the police have indeed been involved. Robert is grateful ‘for all the support he has received in Valley’s End’ and Lorna is licking her wounds, still promising to all who want to listen that she will do everything to keep her dog under control. So far nothing has happened. The next fracas is only just around the corner with everybody saying “what if it's a child being attacked next time?”.