What To Do With A Dead Man

In just one ride today I was:

  • dampened by the rain;
  • buffeted by the wind;
  • greeted cheerily enough by the three cyclists I met, despite the weather;
  • found alarming by a squirrel;
  • eyed-up as a potential meal by a Red Kite;
  • resented by another Red Kite as I disturbed him snacking on a smashed-up deer;
  • depressed by dumped fast-food rubbish;
  • rendered breathless by a steep climb;
  • forced to stop and fix a puncture;
  • impressed by the sharpness of a flint shard;
  • pleased to see a Kestrel;
  • puzzled by a hedgerow bird (perhaps a Yellowhammer);

and

  • worried that I was about to find a dead man.

I could have just ridden around and not noticed all that was going on around me. I could have stayed in; the weather wasn’t great. Going cold after having to stop to fix the puncture, I actually cut the ride short which is a sure sign that wasn’t the best of trips. And yet I’m still glad I went; glad I looked, thought, experienced. It might well be essential to be curious. It’s not always easy to remain curious about what’s going on around you though. It takes effort; it takes a mind-set that you have to work at.

The worry about a dead man was real. I was going along a lane and in the distance I could see what looked like a man, seated but slumped by a hedge. As I drew closer, that’s precisely what it was: a very old chap, if not in his eighties then in his nineties, sitting on a plank on a wheelbarrow, garden tools in his hand and on the floor, wheelbarrow full of cuttings from the hedge he’d been working on. He was sitting, but his head was slumped down on his chest and he wasn’t moving. With some trepidation I said ‘good morning’, quite completely unsure about what I’d do if he didn’t answer. I think I woke him up – but he did sit up and he did answer in a friendly enough way. I guess someone of his age is entitled to a catnap.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have woken him and he spent the rest of the morning cursing me, but on balance I think it was the best thing to do. If I’d read in the paper later that an old chap had been found dead by a hedge, having been there for some hours, I’d have felt guilty.

Then again, if you think about it, if that had turned out to be the case then he wouldn’t have minded; any guilt would be unfounded. The justification for waking him up can only come from the possibility that I could have been coming across someone ill, in need of help, which is fair enough – no matter how much I’d have been out of my depth in terms of trying to be a practical help to an ill man.